Summer is generally a pretty slow time for theater in New York, but there's still a few exciting things going on worth noting:
-I caught Spring Awakening, the recipient of 8 Tony Awards (including Best Musical), again this past weekend. I had seen the show when it played Off-Broadway last year, and saw the show a few times when it was in previews, so I was excited to see how it was holding up about 6 months into it's run. I'm happy to report it is as good, if not better, than ever. The music is so incredibly beautiful, and the lyrics become more meaningful with each additional listen. The actors, meanwhile, seem to have found new nuances that make the show's story of adolescent sexual repression and the dangers of parents not being honest with their children resonate even deeper.
Tony winner John Gallagher, as tortured soul Mortiz, has definitely amped up the angst, and while he is slightly more affected than he was earlier in the run, it's still a very powerful performance. Lea Michele is as effective as ever as the ill-fated Wendla, but it's Jonathan Groff who really stands out as the rebellious Melchior. His singing voice is superb, and his acting is nothing short of sensational -- he's funny, he's moving, and he's gorgeous! If you can, catch this show while the three young stars-to-be are still around. Click here to buy tickets.
-Tickets for Grease, starring reality show winners Laura Osnes and Max Crumm, went on sale yesterday. After seeing these kids everywhere during the awards season it's a little hard to believe they just started rehearsals last week. I can't imagine the show is going to be anything but a trainwreck, but somehow it's a trainwreck I don't think I can avoid missing. Click here to purchase tickets.
-Finally, I revisited the old chestnut Rent last week to check out American Idol alum Tamyra Gray in the role of Mimi. While she is not giving the kind of tour de force performance Fantasia is giving in The Color Purple, she acquits herself quite nicely as the drug addicted, HIV-infected spitfire. If her acting leaves a little bit to be desired, her voice is sensational (she may be the best singer who has ever played the role) and her dancing is surprisingly powerful.
While Christopher Hanke as Mark disappointed a bit (bringing very little humor or charm to the role), the rest of the show is in fine shape -- Troy Horne makes an excellent Tom Collins, Nicolette Hart is a feisty (and loud!) Maureen, and Tonya Dixon brings an unexpected power to Joanne. Best of all, though, was understudy Luther Creek as Roger. Not only does he sing the hell out of the part, his subtle acting choices and rich inner life made me truly believe this guy had shut himself off from the world and was just biding his time until his death. As a result, songs that have at times bored me ("I Should Tell You," "Your Eyes") became incredibly emotional, as you watched this woman (Mimi) actually touch his soul and cause him to change and open himself up. Creek's performance was the heart of the show.
It'll be interesting to see what happens when original stars Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal return to their roles this summer. Will they seem too old, or will they bring a special energy to The Nederlander? Guess we'll have to wait and see...
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