Sunday, May 14, 2006

Broadway – The Drowsy Chaperone, The History Boys, Three Days of Rain

So thank goodness we didn’t get the 3 days of rain that was forecasted for the weekend in New York, but I did get to see Three Days of Rain, and let’s just get right to the all important question.

No, Julia Roberts won’t deserve or get a Tony nomination on Tuesday, but she really isn’t that bad actually, and in fact, the entire production of Richard Greenberg’s play Three Days of Rain was quite excellent and I would highly recommend it (not that it matters since it’s too late unless you are willing to deal with scalpers at this point).

Julia played a dour quiet sister and in act 2, the crazy southern mother of the quiet sister in act 1, but to be honest, I think I spent half the time in wonderment saying to myself… THAT’S JULIA ROBERTS. IN FRONT OF MY EYES. ON STAGE… OH YEAH, I SHOULD BE CONCENTRATING ON THE PLAY.

So the play? It’s actually quite good, and Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper are excellent as usual, in a play about the family generational dynamics, what we know and want to know about our parents, and architecture (the children’s parents are famous architects).

The History Boys, completely transferred from The National Theatre in London, full cast intact, is a joyous study in the dynamics of two thoughts of teaching, with Richard Griffiths (Uncle Dursley in the Harry Potters series), leading the cast of British boys in all their rambunctiousness and hormones. Frances de la Tour (Madame Maxine in Harry Potter V)adds great depth and a feminine perspective to the mix, and Stephen Campbell Moore as the new young teacher that sticks to the rules, is terrific. Dominic Cooper (who I already had picked as someone to notice in his bit role in Breakfast on Pluto) is a standout and rising star as the "Dakin", a confident student who uses his smarts and his looks to his full advantage. This is however not to disrespect any of the other students, all who are fantastic in their roles, including Samuel Bernett as the lovelorn gay student who yearns for Dakin, and Jamie Parker as the piano playing Christ following all round buddy.
My only problem with the play? Sometimes it was difficult to catch all the Britishcisms and words through the accents, so I know I missed some more excellent lines, but that’s where the film version (that is already in the can, and expected to be release this winter) will help, but nothing beats seeing these boys, and their teachers, live on a terrific but simple stage set in a production directed by Nicholas Hytner (The Madness of King George, His Dark Materials).

This will probably grow in legend as time goes on, but The Drowsy Chaperone, originally a joke play presented at the tiny Rivoli on Queen St. West in Toronto, that grew to the Fringe, Theatre Passe Muraille, Winter Garden Theatre, LA’s Ahmanson Theatre, and now finally, on Broadway, each time getting bigger and bigger.

Which might not have been a great thing since at its heart, it’s a cute small loving spoof of musical theatre, but it is darn entertaining and if it had to get supersized so that Sutton Foster starred in it, it was well worth it (Sutton herself is a bit of a legend already, having been plucked from the chorus of Thoroughly Modern Millie after the original star was fired during rehearsals, only to later win the Tony Award for Best Actress for the role, and literally creating a Broadway star overnight, and now that I’ve finally seen her in person, I can say it is WELL DESERVED. THAT GIRL is a STAR. She’s funny, limber and can SING and has never seen a song she cannot plaster a smile all over).

However, the character of "Man in Chair", who narrates the show, is played by Bob Martin. The show, is about a play that follows a character called "Robert Martin", who is about to marry "Janet Van der Graff". In real life, Bob Martin is married to Janet Van der Graff, and The Drowsy Chaperone was written by Don McKellar (Twitch City, Slings and Arrows, every CDN indie movie made after 1990), Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison as a gift to the real Bob Martin and Janet Van der Graff for their wedding. Confused? Don’t be. The “Comedy within a Musical” is funny, short, and silly, mocking and giving tribute to the old musicals of the 20th Century all at the same time. Bob Martin (the real actor as the character Man in Chair) makes commentary about the show within the show, and it’s an amusing trick that actually works. While not the must see show that I was hoping it would be, it was still far more enjoyable for me than Wicked or The Producers and the audience around me ate up The Drowsy Chaperone (although they did Wicked and The Producers too, so what do I know?!), and it definitely and entertaining night, which in the end, isn’t what Musical Theatre is all about?

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