Last week, I visited my friend in NYC (shit, I should've tried to meet up with Nathaniel, or at least
stalked him a little
um, told him I was in town).
Anyway, whilst in NYC, I saw two broadway shows, the first of which was this season's revival of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
, starring Michael Cerveris and
Dorothy Stanley. Yes, that's right, the show I happened to see did not star Patti LuPone, it starred Dorothy Stanley. Needless to say, I was PISSED. I learned while picking up my tickets that day that on that particular day, Patti LuPone was ill and thus was not able to go onstage. Whatever. My friend and I speculated that perhaps she just wanted to take a long holiday weekend, but that is neither here nor there. The point is, I saw an "off" show, which sucks.
I guess I was expecting to love it more than I did, but I suspect a large part of why I didn't love it so much was the Mrs. Lovett stand-in. It just threw off the whole vibe of it, plus Stanley just wasn't as good. Her voice, though fine, was weak and less expressive, and her blocking was also off (or so my friend, who'd seen it before, informed me). Mostly what pissed me off was that the chemistry with Michael Cerveris was all wrong, so the switch led to my enjoying his perf less as well.
Also, I found Sondheim's score to be a bit too bouncy or fussy or fluttery or what have you... it's hard to describe, but I just had a bit of a problem with it. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful score, it's quite haunting in places, and it really transports you... but I guess I just prefer bold and sweeping to, well, "fluttery". I don't remember having this kind of problem with Sondheim's music when I saw Sunday in the Park with George
here at Brown. And I certainly had no problem with his lyrics to West Side Story
, which remains my favorite musical EVER. But I had a bit of a problem with this, for reasons unknown to me.
Good points: Cerveris was grandly creepy, Manuel Felciano was more fragile-ly (?) creepy, and the chamber music atmosphere felt just right. I should probably see this one again, with Patti present, but I may not be able to afford that. I REALLY wish I could've seen Angela Lansbury do it back in the day, but that, sadly, won't be happening again.
The other show I saw, the following night, with a student-rush ticket, was John Patrick Shanley's Doubt
, winner of last year's Pulitzer and Tony.
This show also had new people in for the original cast (Cherry Jones, etc. have left the show by now), but at least these actors were permanent replacements, not stand-ins, and in truth, they were quite good. I loved Eileen Atkins as the lead nun/headmistress, even though I wish I could've seen Jones in the role. Atkins' little-old-lady fussiness and crotchitiness provided plentiful laughs throughout, but was offset brilliantly by her stern, authoritative power. And Ron Eldard, as much as I hated him in House of Sand and Fog
, was actually quite effective here as the loving Father Flynn. It was also a treat to see my film fave Jena Malone in her Broadway debut, and the fourth wheel, Adriane Lennox, was stellar in her one and only scene.
The play is brilliantly written, and I hope to actually read it, now that I've seen it. What sounds at first like a simplistic premise gets amazingly layered, seemingly out of nowhere, and the moral ambiguities in play make for a profound speculation on the church, racism, sexism, sexuality, pedophilia, teaching styles, authority figures, changing times, and our many ways of expressing love... and that's all on top of the fun-to-follow mystery story that develops that resolves (sort of) in the space of 90 minutes. Different characters seem more trustworthy at different times, and the audience's sympathies are always in "doubt" (yup). It's an awfully fun ride, peppered with a few beautfully unforced "meta"-literary moments that I personally totally enjoyed (I love the "meta"). Highly recommended play. See it, read it, ponder it. You'll be glad you did.
Anyway, off to bed with me... or, maybe, to breakfast... my electricity is out in my apartment (I am somewhere else right now), so I'm looking to find more places to go and things to do while waiting for morning light. Wish me luck.