Jazz Hands

I tell ya, I have been making out like a bandit.  The musical theater gods are smiling on me and I like it.  Apparently the stories about my never saying “no” are making the rounds on the Great White Way.  (That sounds far dirtier than I intended…so of course I’m leaving it!)

There are a few rules which I live by:

  • Chocolate is best for breakfast, but it’s never bad.
  • In any situation you can either laugh or cry, and only one of them leaves you with a monster headache.
  • Everything in moderation…including moderation.
  • Being a martyr really hasn’t ended well for anyone thus far, best to avoid it entirely.
  • Never, ever pass up free tickets for anything.

If someone offered me a pair of tickets to watch bacteria grow in yogurt, I’d eagerly accept.  You’ve got an extra ticket for a boil lancing?  Sign me up!  I’d even use free tickets to see Rod Stewart perform.  I’d just bring the biggest purse I could find and load it up with rotten eggs so I could pelt him while he warbled “Forever Young.”  Excuse me while I go spit out the vomit in my mouth that invariably rises when I think of that man singing.  Fucker.

Ah yes, now I’m minty fresh.  Where was I?  Oh hell I thought about him singing again…off to take another swig of mouthwash.

I’m happier than Lindsay Lohan in an untended pharmacy with my bounty the past week.  First I scored the pair to opening night of Finian’s Rainbow last Thursday.  Then I scored seats at a preview for Fela on Tuesday and two days ago I enjoyed the invited dress for Dream Girls.  I’m almost afraid to make any social plans for fear (and hope) that my run of free last minute tickets will continue.

Both Fela and Dream Girls aren’t officially open yet so it’s not very fair to review them.  So I won’t.  But I’ll still give you my two cents on what I saw.  You always have the option of waiting to see what the NYTimes says, anyways.

Fela blew my frickin’ mind.  They did a tremendous job of converting the O’ Neill Theater into a night club.  I went with my old music biz buddy Danielle and we joked that it felt like we were waiting for a Wyclef show at SOB’s rather than sitting in a Broadway house.  The band was jamming on stage before the doors even opened.  People were dancing in the aisles and at their seats as they waited for the show to begin.

The music, the music, THE MUSIC was brain pounding, butt shaking, and heart thudding.  I recognized a few of the songs, but to be honest I hadn’t spent a ton of time listening to Fela Kuti’s music before the show.  The passion was palpable.  The cast and band exploded with energy and emotion.  Within minutes, the audience was standing, clapping, stomping and singing – totally immersed in the performance.  I had face cramps from smiling so widely.

The dancing was hypnotic.  I have never been more focused on butts in my life.  Those swinging asses seemed powered by some force other than the bodies to which they were attached.  They were practically a whole other cast mistakenly not listed in the playbill.  The women on stage never stop moving, hurling their bodies across the stage to the relentless pounding beat.

Not that it’s all singing and laughing; this is anything but a comedy.  If you’re at all familiar with Fela Kuti’s life, you can imagine the horrors and sorrows also depicted over the course of the show.  I think they’re still working out a few kinks to improve the flow of the second act where the majority of these emotional scenes fall.  With such a talented team, I think they’ll continue to hone the piece to perfection.  Based on the work they’ve done thus far, I’m confident by opening night this piece will receive tremendous praise and acclaim.

Dream Girls is a little harder to call just because it’s so early in development.  There is certainly something to be said for seeing the show at The Apollo.  It adds a whole new layer to see those performance scenes while sitting in the actual venue depicted in the piece.  Waiting for the doors to open, I got the feeling that Harlem wasn’t used to seeing quite so many adorably flamboyant gay boys and drag queens hanging outside of the theater at lunch time.  I giggled when I overhead the guy behind me in faux leather leggings and Jackie O sunglasses squeal with excitement, “We’re in Harlem, bitches!”

Speaking of added layers, there’s nothing quite as amusing as watching a dress rehearsal with an audience full of theater people.  When else do you hear gasps of appreciation at a dramatic lighting effect or claps for a quick onstage costume change?  Other singers were shouting you-go-girls and sing-it-sisters when Effie belted her numbers.  Other dancers hooted when the ensemble hit the floor for “Steppin’ to the Bad Side.”  I almost had more fun listening to the audience’s reactions than watching the show itself…almost.

The cast is strong, the set is innovative, and the setting is perfect.  When the show is good, it’s really, really good.  I’d be very curious to see it again when it’s open and fully polished.  Maybe the musical theater ticket gods will smile on me again!


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