I recently stumbled upon a free ticket to Nice Work If You Can Get It. I admit that I would never have seen this show on my own. It is essentially a song and dance show with a very vanilla plot. But you can’t turn down a free ticket – especially to a Broadway show. But it was a lot of fun!
Of course the music is genius. But the staging was also very clever. The beautiful set of a Long Island beach house provided for a number of great sight gags. Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara both great performances, though I don’t think Mr. Broderick is much of a dancer. Though he can “complete the steps”, he looks rather unnatural alongside the seasoned dancers. Not that it was much of a distraction. He was spot on with the comedy of the piece and his voice is perfect for that jazzy sound. I do wonder though also how the show would have been different if the leading male would have been more of a handsome playboy then a “cutey”. Not a critique, just a thought. Kelli O’Hara was also quite charming, though thoroughly unconvincing as a masculine bootlegger. Really
though, she was a beautiful one who sings the hell out of a piece so who cares?
However, many of the best performances came from the supporting cast. Michael McGrath and Chris Sullivan were delightful as the fellow bootleggers-come-servants. Robyn Hurders also stood out as the vampy showgirl who hang around looking for a “duke.”
There are bound to be a few problems with any musical that is cobbled together, whose music comes from a preexisting canon. That said, for the most part writer Joe DiPietro did a great job putting the show together. The book scenes were hilarious, and did a great job balancing the
comedy that was inherent to the shows of that era blended with the more “PG-13” humor of today. However, there were still a few lead-ins to songs that prompted an eye roll or two from me. I understand that those clunky intros were ok in older shows. But we can do better than that I think.
All in all, if you come upon a free ticket, don’t hesitate to go. If you like these kinds of shows, don’t hesitate to pay for a ticket!
I just directed a piece with Nylon Fusion’s One Act Festival entitled The Kiss. I had applied for a directing position with them years ago and they must have kept my name on file. I had heard some good things about the company and was excited to be a part. I didn’t do any of the casting until one of the cast had to back out a few days before and I tapped my friend Michael Poignand. It was a very brief process, only 2 rehearsals. But the group made some amazing choices and I think we created a great little story. There were a couple of confusing points in the process where I probably didn’t understand the information conveyed, so we had to make a couple quick changes, but I think we really rose to the occasion. I think them all for their flexibility.
Of course it was one of those processes where tech happens a few hours before the show. We had a few curveballs at that point in the process as well (didn’t realize it was in the round…) but my actors were real pros and handled the quick changes so well. The entire evening was a lot of fun, with some great quality short plays. Congratulations to Nylon Fusion for a good fundraiser. I didn’t get to speak with the playwright (who came all the way from Oregon!), but I hope he enjoyed seeing the piece as much as we did creating it.
I saw the graduate thesis of a Columbia MFA candidate this weekend. The piece was Brecht’s The
Good Person of Szechuan. I am not going to go into Brecht theatrical philosophy, but in brief, it has a disjointed feel to keep the matter intellectual rather than visceral. From a narrative perspective, it makes the story a little difficult to follow at times, though I wouldn’t necessarily blame that on the direction. I think the very high pitched music they chose was a little grating, but that is a purely aesthetic comment. It as a choice did what it was intended to do. There was also a lot of shouting, which made it a bit harder to focus at times. I wonder if there was a way to make it a little less
“frontal assault” so the intellectual shifts would be a bit more pointed.
The strongest part was certainly the cohesion of the design. The director did a great job steering the team toward a single storytelling goal. The use of projection and staging was absolutely my favorite element. There were cameras located in several spaces and the actors could hit their marks and face the camera yet they would be speaking directly at the audience through the
projections. The most complete design choice was when the speaker on the projection was upstage left facing upstage right and it was displayed on the downstage drop that the other member of the scene was speaking to. Its hard to visualize as I write it, I know. Just know it was a fantastic use of space. The transitions were smooth and the choreography perfectly fit in with the concept. (Shout out to my old high school friend Leeanne G-Bowley).
I left with such an awed feeling actually. I thought “I never would be able to think on that scale.” After thinking about it more, I hope that I was selling myself a little short. Its just funny that I haven’t really been given that opportunity to do so in quite a while. Projections, wow! Its so refreshing to be able to see a young artist (I count myself in this category) be able to worry about ART without excessive limitations. Without having to ask the question “how can we do it with virtually no resources?” Coincidentally, the next show I am scheduled to do, Bubby’s Shadow by Andrew Rothkin, is going to require many of the same elements. I am looking forward to rising to that challenge, and am glad I witnessed this to inspire me.