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I have a theory, and it’s not about people who live in Lake Erie, although I have been listening to the cast recording of “Bandstand” a lot lately. (I have to throw some bones to the theatre readers when it’s not Thursday.) I think the most vegan-friendly cities are places that are extra-trying to show how progressive they’ve become since their not-so-great pasts, whether consciously or not. In Europe at least, the places that were hit hardest during World War II, whether literally by being destroyed or politically by falling prey to fascism, have been incredibly vegan-friendly in my experience. When I’ve been in Berlin, for example, with its endless vegan signs and tattooed yoots and overall sense of freethinking and tolerance, it seems like the people are on a particularly passionate mission to prove that they’re no longer Nazis, and with that sort of progressive thinking comes veganism! I got the same vibe when I was in Warsaw, Poland, which was decimated by the Nazis during the war as we learned last week. Warsaw’s rebuilding after the war came with sort of a rebirth similar to Berlin’s, and I was delighted to find that it is a bona fide vegan paradise.
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It’s...not Theatre Thursday, but this production closes on Broadway today and I didn’t realize.
Joe Mantello is a magician. Not a director, not an actor, a magician. Everything I’ve seen him do, whether it be acting or directing (okay, he is an actor and a director), is flawless, and his direction of the latest revival of “Three Tall Women” is that again, plus all the other superlatives you could think of. Of course, Joey M had the benefit of directing some of the best actresses of the modern age, as well as the rich source material of this challenging, thrilling play. I was unfamiliar with this particular Edward Albee classic, but I am happy to say that it continued the trend of my enjoying and appreciating Albee’s plays, which is a nice change of pace from my reactions to other playwright kings (*cough* Pinter *cough* Mamet*). I bought tickets to TTW superfast because Glenda Jackson, the closest you can get to royalty without being royal, was making her big return to Broadway after her amazing life of winning two Oscars, playing King Lear in London, and…serving in Parliament for more than twenty years. I had to go see the f-ing thing!
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It’s Theatre Thursday! Today we are talking about “My Name is Lucy Barton” at the Bridge Theatre in London, playing until June 23.
The best one-man shows are those that make you forget that only one person is up on that stage. It takes an enormous talent to fill a theatre so completely that you feel the force of a whole company entertaining you with their stories. The last time (maybe only other time?) I felt like a stage was filled with several great entertainers instead of just one was in Michael Urie’s brilliant one-man show Buyer and Cellar. Now the wonderful Laura Linney manages to achieve a similar result in The Bridge Theatre’s “My Name is Lucy Barton”, in which she tells her story so vividly and describes other people so keenly that it feels as effective as a play with a big ensemble. She distracts you from how hard she’s working up there with how realistic her storytelling is. Directed by Richard Eyre, this moving tale of one woman's struggles to come to terms with her past while recognizing her internal pain is at times funny, depressing, and surprisingly universal in its representation of the humanity of loneliness.
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Warsaw is one of the most surprising cities I've ever visited. Usually, I am a tough critic when traveling (especially if I don't have a bathroom or a nice bed). But I became a fan of Warsaw almost instantly and jumped right into exploration and appreciation of this important city. It's a city of contrasts: it feels hospitable and welcoming yet still retains an air of eastern European coolness. The desire to progress and rise above its history is palpable, amid seemingly innumerable monuments to the past. You feel almost overwhelmed by all the history surrounding you, yet every building is almost brand-new. There's a lot to understand when visiting Warsaw, and it's a rewarding undertaking. Even though I had zero expectations (or maybe because of that), Warsaw quickly became one of my favorite places.
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It’s Theatre Thursday! Today we are talking about “The Rink”, at the Southwark Playhouse until June 23.
Confirming our long-held belief that the best of London musical theatre happens at Southwark Playhouse, their latest production of “The Rink” is a flawless gem. The 10th venture from theatre gods Kander & Ebb, “The Rink” tells the story of Anna, an Italian-American woman with an estranged daughter, who owns a rundown roller-skating rink on the boardwalk by a changing-for-the-worse seaside. The original 1984 production starred Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli as the mother and daughter, so if you were alive to witness that you probably died from the experience. It won Chita the Tony, yet was poorly received by critics, especially sourpuss Frank Rich at the failing New York Times. (Fun fact: Director Rob Marshall was a performer in that production.) I can’t imagine how different that production had to have been from the brilliance that’s occurring at the Southwark Playhouse right now, because it may be the best musical production on a London stage right now and I know I can’t compare myself to the New York Times (I don’t support Nazis, for one), this shit’s gonna be a rave.
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Woof. And I don’t mean in the adorable doggie way. What a season we’ve had on Broadway this year! To be clear, I’m mostly talking about the musicals; I haven’t seen many plays this year. (Which is a shame, because the plays are a lot better.) But I’ve seen a lot of musicals, and man alive. Only one new musical was actually of the high caliber we expect on Broadway. Sure the others were still better than a lot of musicals on the West End (I will not stop criticizing West End musicals until they learn to live up to their potential), but nowhere close to what we would expect from Broadway professionals who shouldn’t be rushing apparent first drafts of work to the stage. Yet a lot of what is now playing in NYC feels exactly like that: first drafts that no one had the balls to say ‘wait this needs more work’ about before letting it go live and risking millions and millions of dollars. The worst part is that there are no new stories being told: Although our hero of the year, “The Band’s Visit”, feels new and fresh, it is actually derived from an Israeli film. Which is fine and well and good, especially since it’s a little known film so the story isn’t overdone in the least. But its three major competitors are much more well known and the sort where for even one of them you’d be like, that’s a Broadway musical now? but when you have all three together you are the embodiment of the smack-my-head emoji all day err day.
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It's Theatre Thursday! We're talking about "Carousel" at Broadway's Imperial Theatre.
When the current revival of “Carousel” was announced last year, everyone was beside themselves with excitement. With a cast including Jessie Mueller as Julie Jordan, Joshua Henry as Billy Bigelow, and opera diva Renee Fleming as Nettie Fowler, it ranked among the most incredible Broadway news in recent memory. Finally a phenomenal leading role for Josh Henry! Jessie Mueller never disappoints! Renee f-ing Fleming! This cast singing that wonderful, much-loved score? Hopes were insanely high all across the Broadway community, and of course such expectations could not go unfulfilled, right? I mean, this is “Carousel”, one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most beloved works and the musical that many (including Time Magazine in 1999) consider the best of the 20th century. Bring this shit on!, we all thought expectantly. Well, a word in that previous sentence applies to this production more than I ever could have guessed.
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It’s Theatre Thursday! Today we are talking about the new revival of “My Fair Lady” at New York’s Lincoln Center.
I always felt that I knew “My Fair Lady” really well, even though I don’t even remember even seeing the movie. But the score is part of mainstream culture and you know the original story if you’re alive/have read mythology/have read Shaw/have read anything really/seen Freddie Prinze Jr. movies – haughty gentleman takes a bet that he can transform a poor, lower class girl into a well-mannered, well-spoken lady who can pass for upper class. Given that the framework here is of a story we’ve seen in one form or another, I expected to enjoy a high quality production but not be blown away. What could they do to make this simple story seem important? Well, a lot. I don’t know what I was thinking, because of course it was another perfect Lincoln Center + Bartlett Sher production of a classic musical, mining every ounce of emotion and intelligence and creating an experience so sublime and emotionally challenging that I’m still thinking about it constantly. I thought I knew “My Fair Lady”, but this production proved that I did not know what it was capable of. It’s one of those theatre events that I feel supremely lucky to have witnessed.
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It's Theatre Thursday! Today we are talking about "Chess" at London's English National Opera, playing until June 2.
You know how Broadway keeps trying to make shows about basketball and they never really take off? Well at least basketball has some action to it. Imagine a show about the most boring game ever. “Chess”, the 1980s musical from ABBA menfolk Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus with lyrics from Tim Rice, really truly did that. The music still stands as some of the most famous and mainstream to come out of musical theatre (‘One Night in Bangkok’, anyone?), yet the book veers on ridonk. It’s one of the few shows I prefer to be done in a concert version. Still, I had high expectations for London’s new big production at the English National Opera’s Coliseum, but these expectations were not met. The score was well sung, but the production - both in terms of visuals, sound, and more - did more to hurt the show than help it.
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It's Theatre Thursday! Today we are talking about "Red" on the West End, playing until the end of July.
Although giving props to white men right about now is the last thing we should be doing, I have to give some (is it a mass noun?) to white male playwright John Logan for being the first person to depict serious art and the modern art world without making me scream from the cringe. (“Sunday in the Park with George” is not about modern art and it is still the best depiction of the artist and the creative process ever to exist in the history of the world.) Whenever I’ve watched stories about self-important artists, fictional or not, or even just gone to a modern art museum (ew and oh no) my main thoughts have been ‘oh my gooooood get over yourself’. The whole ‘I have something to say and this splash of paint thrown against a singed canvas represents that but also progress and our birth’ charade makes my blood boil. Maybe it’s just because artists are so often portrayed in pop culture as pretentious wankers who really believe they have something urgent to say but they really really don’t, like Sky in “Red Oaks” (great under-the-radar show, go watch it). And all of her insufferable artist friends man alive they are the perfect example of this. You just want to Cher in Moonstruck all of them. Anyway before I start ranting even more about all the various portrayals of arrogant, affected artists in movies and TV, let’s talk about this representation of a modern artist that I actually bought into and understood, the play “Red”, about Mark Rothko’s tortured creative process.
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Laughfrodisiac is attempting to complete another month of VeganMOFO in September 2014! Read about the plan here and stay tuned every day in September!
In September 2013, Laughfrodisiac participated in VEGANMOFO! Read about this awesome month-long vegan blogging challenge! And read all the posts I wrote during VeganMofo here!
If you like the Veganizing "Friends", check out more of my veganization of TV food on HelloGiggles!
Click on the Michelin Restaurants link for an ever-growing review collection for fancy restaurants that can accommodate vegans!