“Fiddler on the Roof” is an important show for so many reasons. It’s a golden age classic with a memorable score that has held up today. It’s up there with other classics like “The Sound of Music” and “Singin’ in the Rain” in terms of how important they were to my upbringing and development. But most significantly, Fiddler is a consistent reminder to a people who apparently need consistent reminding that the fight against racism and fascism is a serious one, a terrible one, and an apparently never-ending one. “Fiddler” has never been as relevant in my lifetime as it is today, as we grapple with the shock and terror of the government discriminating against an entire religion again. Despite this fantastic revival closing over a month ago on Broadway, I’m still thinking about it regularly, about how fantastic this cast and production were, how moved I was at moments that I never really cared for before, how yet again theatre exactly reflects the struggles of humans today. I don’t usually write about things I’ve seen that have long since closed, but I have been thinking about it constantly and about how important it is to keep talking about the issues raised by this beautiful show and to add to the chorus of sane people who don’t think religious persecution is okay.
I don’t think any show has seemed more mysterious and fascinating to me than “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812”, a musical that was on my radar when it was still a dinner theatre production in a giant tent a few years ago. I didn’t get to see it off-Broadway or in Boston, but I was always enamored with how cool it seemed. What doesn’t sound amazing about watching an immersive musical in a giant circus tent and being served Russian food while people sing and dance around you? Well the Russian food I guess but still, so fun. Consequently, I had really high hopes for finally seeing this show, buoyed by the incredible hype borne from the spectacle and novelty of it. I barely even knew what it was about, except that it was an interpretation of “War & Peace” (hence the Natasha and Pierre in the title). And instead of getting to see original star Phillipa Soo, I would get to see the Broadway cast’s star Josh Groban (different role). Change approved!
Last night, a show that defied all odds closed on Broadway, or really we should pronounce it “Br’dway”, as I and others lucky enough to see this show will forever do. “Oh, Hello”, a ‘play’ that makes you laugh even if you just repeat the title like an old kvetcher and fry that last syllable, should never had gone to Br’dway, should never have been the recommended pick of the most esteemed critics, and should never have been one of the funniest things its audiences ever saw. But it was! I still don’t know how to explain this show to people who didn’t see it, because it’s impossible. So I guess it’s kind of stupid that that’s exactly what I’m going to do now. Mostly I just want to document the jokes I remember for posterity, while bidding farewell to some of the most glorious hours I’ve experienced in the theatre, and in 2016 in general. It was a bright spot on an otherwise dark and gloomy year. Or, as we say now, “brit spot”.
For a show that begins with four Jews in a room bitching, in a song called “Four Jews in a Room Bitching”, you would think I’d love “Falsettos”. But when I saw the current Broadway revival of this show, I was somehow left cold, which is pretty hard when the focus is on family dynamics and, suddenly, AIDS. I was having trouble with the choppy direction and erratic pacing throughout the show, but I believe the suddenness of the AIDS story is what fully shut down all my feelings aside from ‘disbelief’ and ‘like you’re being punked’. I’ve been told that I would have enjoyed this particular production more if I was at all familiar with it beforehand (I wasn’t), and I could see how this cast would be a treat if you were a fan of the show. But you shouldn’t need to know a piece beforehand to enjoy it. And honestly, it’s a weird show. There are moments of brilliance (possibly due to the actors involved here), but oof, it was difficult to get through. I’ve never been so impatient for a show to end. And I barely remember ¾ of what I saw.
As usual, the Golden Globes featured some great moments, some surprises, and a lot of really stupid moments. But one of the most noticeable differences this time around was how unfunny the telecast was compared to the past few years. For an awards show that usually has its live and TV audiences in stitches, the laughter was remarkably limited. Sometimes I’ll think of jokes from 2013 and 2014, when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted, and crack up uncontrollably. Like when they commented on the “Zero Dark Thirty” controversy and chose to believe Kathryn Bigelow because “when it comes to torture, I’m gonna believe the woman who was married to James Cameron.” They were amazing. But this year? I of course dole out a bit of the blame to the always-insane Hollywood Foreign Press for being equal parts bizarre and deluded, but most of the unfunny came from Jimmy Fallon, a person I used to adore and now pretty much despise. He likes to say that he prefers his comedy with rounded edges and doesn’t like to engage in politics, but that’s a rich sentiment coming from his white straight male superwealthy mouth.
After the disappointing (and sometimes infuriating) Spring and Summer, Fall was a gift from god. I adored every single second of it. Okay maybe not every single second but the vast majority of the time I was ecstatic. It felt absolutely perfect, maybe because I so badly wanted it to be but also because it was just so good. Instead of Fall, it could be called 100 Minutes of Epic Crying Fits. So much was so beautiful that I sobbed in that choky hyperventilating way. But that’s good! That’s great, really. That means it hit me how I wanted it to.
“Hairspray” is one of the best musicals, it really is. It’s a perfect first musical for newbies, it’s a perfectly written musical for musical lovers. Everyone can identify with it, unless they are white supremacists, and then they shouldn’t get to enjoy musical theatre anyway. I was lucky enough to see “Hairspray” on Broadway with a lot of the original cast but with Michael McKean taking over for Harvey Fierstein as Edna. And the 2007 movie is spectacular. The cast premiered numbers from it back at ShoWest (now CinemaCon) in 2007, which I went to. It was all these old white people at the convention and then me fangirling like a crazy person, jumping up and down at the foot of the stage while Harvey Weinstein was like, you need to calm down. (And then I got a picture with Nikki Blonsky who yes may be troubled but she is a f-ing amazing talent.) The movie is so good that even John Travolta’s performance, which at first I didn’t like, is now my favorite. After seeing it 100 times it really grows on you. Suffice it to say, “Hairspray Live!” had big shoes to fill for me. It didn’t, but it’s such a great show that even a lackluster production of it is still an enjoyable few hours.
Hoo boy, was ‘Summer’ a doozy. I experienced a roller coaster of emotions – I was angry, I was sad, I was even angrier, I was frustrated – and that’s all directed at the Palladinos. We learned something new and super annoying about the Palladinos, or as I’ll now call them, the Tweedledee and Tweedledinos, from this episode: They hate millennials. Yup, the people who created one of the most beloved and important shows of this much-maligned generation also believe all the very stupid and baseless bullshit spread about millennials – that they’re lazy good-for-nothings who all end up back living with their parents because of their own bad decisions. They are like those idiots who believe that the fact that millennials can’t buy a house at age 25 from a median-income 9-5 job like their grandparents could is their own fault, and not, as it is, the fault of those grandparents. Nothing is more ignorant and, really, basic than uninformed derision of millennials. Conclusion, the Palladinos are basic bitches.
Whereas “Winter” opened with the audio clip of all those famous quotes, “Spring” tiptoed in with a quiet cold open in the therapist’s office, where Emily and Lorelai sit in near silence. It felt very weird, and I kept anticipating the credit or ad break that never came to break the tension. The opening scene in general seemed just…off. The idea of Lorelai and Emily going to therapy together, teased at the end of “Winter”, seemed really promising, an exciting new way to explore their relationship, if a little too conveniently and transparently set up. But, with all the potential such a setting had, it was all squandered. I was bored, nothing happened, they had zero important exchanges, just Lorelaid asking what the time was. I felt cheated out of what should have been great!
Hey Gillies! Can you believe we have finally received the gift of a ‘Gilmore Girls’ reunion? And not just any old reunion, but four extra long movie-like episodes making up ‘A Year in the Life’, all written and directed by the formerly ousted show creator herself, Amy Sherman-Palladino! (Well at least Winter is. I fear Daniel will weasel his way in.) I am so psyched! So psyched and SO FULL OF WILLPOWER, because I have only watched “Winter”, the first 90 minute episode of four revival treats, even though they have been out since last Friday. Can you believe it? I am the williest of powers! I could so easily have watched all 4 minimovies (6 hours! maybe not so easily) but I don’t want to be out of new episodes so quickly. I am savoring this shiz! To help me spread out the watching, I’m going to write about each episode/minimovie/‘season’ one by one, thereby forcing a prolonged watching period. Hey, you might be mocking but who’s got two thumbs and three more whole episodes left to watch?? (*motions ‘this girl’ to absolutely no one*).
I <3 Diversions
Entertainment is a ridiculously big part of my life. I grew up in movie theatres, so in my family you have to see pretty much every movie to make it in conversation. This pop culture knowledge has extended to television, music, and, for me, the theatre. Watch this page for commentary about my favorite TV series, critiques of new (and probably old) movies, and information about the hottest live theatre productions. To quote Abed, I like liking things, so there's that.