Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thrillerfest VI: Before the action started

I have so much to write about Thrillerfest, but my week in New York started a couple of days earlier than the conference.  I arrived on a red-eye flight from San Francisco at 7:30am.  Happily, my buddy James Rollins was arriving on his own flight from Sacramento about half an hour later.  I zipped over to his gate and caught a lift into the city with Jimbo.  It was nice, actually, that I began and ended my week with my closest ITW friend, as you will see when we get to the end of the week.

We were both exhausted after our sleepless travels, so I dropped him at his hotel and then headed over to my own.  I was staying for the first time (for a couple of days) at New York's Pod Hotel.  I had the smallest pod you can get, and I was very happy and comfortable there.  I crashed for a few hours before getting out and about in the city.  I rediscovered my favorite sandwich shop in Manhattan, Toasties on 51st, where I grabbed a late lunch.  Then I took care of a few errands.  I hit the drug store and picked up a couple of items.  Next up, I had to find a dirt cheap t-shirt for a Thrillerfest tradition I will write about later.  Three dollars later, I had an I (heart) NY t-shirt, and it was off to Times Square. 

Whenever I'm in New York, I like to get a feel for ticket availability.  I will frequently visit a few box offices of shows I'm interested in, so that I can have the most success acquiring the cheapest tickets.  Because I was getting a late start for the day, after scoping things out, I went to the box office of my "sure thing" show and got a $27 rush ticket to a brand-new Maury Yeston musical playing off-Broadway.  The show is Death Takes a Holiday.  I found it somewhat uneven, but quite enjoyable overall.  I was delighted to see a new work by Yeston, who is known for sophisticated shows like Nine, which was recently made into a movie.

I'd been on the phone with Jimbo on and off during the day, but we'd never quite managed to hook up again that first day, and I knew he was off to Boston by train first thing in the morning.  After the play, I just wandered back to my hotel, grabbing a light snack and many beverages along the way.  I was pretty pooped, as you can imagine.

Nonetheless, I dragged myself out of bed fairly early the next morning.  I was in line in front of the Eugene O'Neil Theater before 9:00am.  I had to establish myself in the line and make friends quickly, because I was going for a double-play that morning.  After accomplishing the two tasks above fairly quickly, I dashed a few blocks uptown around 9:40am to get in a second line.  I didn't bother to make friends there, but I did snag two rush tickets to Sister Act for that evening's performance.  Two center orchestra seats for $38 a piece.  After which I made my way back to the first line, stopping for a knish, several beverages, and a cup of ice along the way.  I was now prepared to wait.

And what I was waiting--in excess of four hours--for, was a single $27 standing room ticket to The Book of Mormon.  Yes, people have been asking me all summer if I've seen that show.  I finally have.  I wasn't going to pay $142 to see that show, and I was smart to wait for a standing room ticket for the Wednesday mat.  People wait nine hours or more for evening tickets every day.  These cheap SRO tickets are highly in demand, and part of me is amazed I snagged one.

As for the show itself, it was entertaining.  Am I glad to have seen it?  Yes.  Did I have to see it?  No.  Will it revolutionize the Broadway theater?  Absolutely not.  The musical is very of it's time and topical.  It will become dated quickly.  Musically it isn't especially sophisticated, and some of the humor is offensive and/or sophomoric.  This production will run for years, but it's hard to imagine the future it will have beyond the original production.  I guess a film wouldn't surprise me.  I really did enjoy the show.  It's very funny, especially the quirkier lead actor, Josh Gad, who turns in a truly idiosyncratic performance.  As for Nikki M. James who won the Best Supporting Actress in a Musical Tony Award, her performance was fine, but I honestly didn't find it all that dynamic or exceptional.  Production values were excellent.  I enjoyed the satire of and homage to other shows.  And I especially enjoyed the chorus of Mormon missionaries.  It was a fun afternoon, and the additional two and a half hours on my feet passed quickly.

After I got out of the theater, I finally connected with my friend, novelist Elle Lothlorien.  I had promised Elle that I would take her to her first Broadway show.  How exciting is that?  I was so delighted to share the experience with her!  Hence the second ticket line that morning.  I met Elle in the lobby of her hotel, and because we were both a little early, we had just enough time for a real dinner.  We walked up Ninth Avenue, and Elle chose one of my favorite haunts, The Delta Grill.  All I have to say is yum!  But we had to dash over to 53rd and Broadway, making it just in time.

Sister Act was not on my must-see list.  I didn't even consider trying to get tickets last month.  And when it was nominated for all those Tony Awards, I was scoffing a bit.  My expectations were not super high.  Well, let me eat some crow here; Sister Act was a completely enjoyable night at the theater.  Elle and I laughed and laughed, and had a really awesome time.  I don't think it will be hard at all to lure Elle back to the theater.  Leads Patina Miller and Victoria Clark gave great performances, and Douglas Carter Beane's book was hilarious.  The music was fun, the production values were great, and overall, I was very pleasantly surprised.

Elle and I knew that we had long days ahead of us, so we called it an early night.  Thrillerfest began the following day, and that's where the stuff you want to hear begins.  For me, that first night of the conference was the highlight, and I'll write about it tomorrow.  Amazingly, those three shows were the only ones I saw all week.  Let's face it, I've seen most of what I really wanted to.  For now, for those who never did get the full list of Broadway productions seen this summer, here's the whole list:

  • Catch Me If You Can
  • The Motherf**ker with the Hat
  • Jerusalem
  • House of Blue Leaves
  • Arcadia
  • Anything Goes
  • How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
  • Born Yesterday
  • The Normal Heart
  • Follies
  • The Importance of Being Earnest
  • Death Takes a Holiday
  • The Book of Mormon
  • Sister Act

1 comment:

  1. Well, no wonder you're exhausted, if that's how you did the run-up to Thrillerfest! Sounds great!