I'm in charge of buying theater tickets for the NYC trip next month. I don't know why my family keeps putting me in charge when I make occasionally terrible choices. I get sucked into reviews that say things like 'highbrow.' I have learned from hard experience that 'highbrow' can mean either 'delightful, rousing, intellectual feast' or it can mean 'so deadly boring even the cute elderly Jewish couples from New Jersey in front of you leave at intermission, but not until they have commented angrily at full volume through the first act.'
One such little play was called Democracy, starring John Boy Walton. It was about some sort of German political scandal in the 70s, all taking place over two hours on a stage made to look like an office with props from IKEA. Maybe it would have been better with Steve Carrell instead of John Boy. At the end, unseen hands dropped thousands of file folders for the big finish, but all I could think was: "What a mess. Who do you think will clean those up? Why didn't you do it an hour ago and put us out of our misery? Ach. Who cares. Let's go to Bloomingdale's."
In London this summer, I got us tickets to 39 Steps. It was a British farce, set in Scotland. The audience was full of authentic characters come to town for the evening, who had had enough time to slip on their only slightly gravy-stained cardies, but not enough time to brush their bushy hair. The colorful audience and Jake's coat pockets full of Cadbury treats were the highlights of the show. It had some moments, but not enough to keep Jen and Andrew's attention. They slipped out at half time, murmuring "no, no, we really like it, but we've gotta go. Meet ya at Mr. Chow's for a midnight snack."
Sometimes, though, I get it right. On the same trip as Democracy, we saw a great show called Bombay Dreams. Sort of a VERY loose Bollywood take on Les Miserables. Loved the music and the choreography. I even bought "Shakalaka Baby" on Itunes. And in London this summer we saw Evita, which was very good, even without Madonna and Antonia Banderas. Maybe especially without them.
Even if 'high brow' doesn't work out, I am fairly certain 'lowbrow' isn't the solution. I guess what I'm thinking is we will find most happiness in the 'middlebrow' range, and I will have to do my intellectual feasting on Masterpiece Theater or BBC America. Or read a book. I can't waste much more time looking for it on the stage. It's a highbrow minefield out there.
So I've been doing some research, and there are a few shows I'm leaning toward.
The first is Rock 'n' Roll. Tom Stoppard's Arcadia is my favorite play ever, and this is his newest. The name may be misleading, though. Apparently the rock music plays background to the story, which is about an aging Communist in Britain set around the time the Berlin Wall comes down. So you see, the play could really be called COMMUNISM, in which case it sounds too terribly close to DEMOCRACY. Is this play gold, or iron pyrite? It has generally good reviews (the line "hopeful heart behind the cerebral glitter" is just the sort of things that sucks me in, usually for ill), but Stoppard's last play was 12 hours long, so maybe this time the reviewers were just grateful to be let out of their seats in a timely manner. Is likely boring highbrow, not Arcadia Revisited; but can I afford NOT to see it?
The Farnsworth Invention stars Hank Azaria and follows the race between two men to invent the television. It got a few reviews that called it bo-ring, and some others probably written by Hank Azaria.
Legally Blonde could be okay, but I'm worried it is made for tween girls. I can watch Hannah Montana right here at home.
August: Osage County has glowing reviews, and a story that looks terribly depressing. But good/depressing better than bad/cheerful, probably.
Speech and Debate: Off Broadway, and good reviews. My sister Jen was Arizona State high school debate champion of 1994. She is all over this'un.
Mamma Mia. Just cause I've never seen it.
Les Miserables. Cause I'm a sucker for it. It is a new production, but how different can it be, really?
Spring Awakening might be good if some of the songs didn't have the F word in the title.
Cyrano de Bergerac starring Claire Danes will be over.
Jen's the one I'm out to impress. I'm not so worried about my Mom liking the shows I pick. She isn't picky. She likes it all. Musical, Drama, Revival; heck, she even liked Democracy (though, to be fair, she actually lived in Germany during the Willy Brandt scandal). She won best actress at BYU two years in a row or something. I've seen the statues hiding in the laundry room closet, where she keeps them so no one will ask her to direct road shows at Church.
Have any of you seen any of these shows on Broadway or off? Please leave lengthy, brutally honest reviews. I'll be purchasing tickets to 3 or 4 shows this week!