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“Rubber Ducks and Sunsets” @ Gene Frankel Theatre

A story about twenty-somethings in Brooklyn discovering the meaning of life would usually have me running for the hills.

lenableh
Or just have me changing the channel.

But there is something intriguing about Ground UP Productions’ new play Rubber Ducks and Sunsets, now playing at the Gene Frankel Theatre. Written by Catya McMullen, Rubber Ducks takes place in the weeks after the death of Al, a photographer who is survived by his sister Amy (Christine Mottram), his boyfriend Walter (JD Taylor), his assistant Petey (Zac Moon), and his friends Casey (Anna Stromberg) and Eli (Josh Evans). Each character has their own way of dealing with Al’s death. Eli begins training for the “Iron Bro,” a competition that combines “athleticism, recreational drug use and stamina.” Amy, who has been estranged from Al for years, tries to build relationships with Walter and his friends. (Warning: results will vary.) Petey is curating some of Al’s possessions for a Vanity Fair spread, and despite her dislike for Petey, Casey decides to help. Meanwhile, Walter plays his guitar alone in the bathroom, where Al died.

JD Taylor as Walter in Rubber Ducks and Sunsets.
Walter (JD Taylor) during one of his bathroom sets.

The action takes place in Al and Walter’s Brooklyn apartment. The characters mention how “awesome” the apartment looks, and they aren’t lying. Designed by Travis McHale, Rubber Ducks’ set captures the magic of a realistic Broadway set in a much smaller venue. When you look at the set, it feels as if you are looking into the interior of a Brooklyn photographer’s apartment, ironic animal trophy head and all. Speaking of New York real estate, it was refreshing to see that Al had the apartment because he was rich enough to afford it, and not through some rent-controlled-elderly-cousin-luck that’s been trotted about in way too may New York-based narratives.

Best friends forever. (L-R): Josh Evans as Eli, JD Taylor as Walter (sitting) and Anna Stromberg as Casey.
Best friends forever. (L-R): Josh Evans as Eli, JD Taylor as Walter (sitting) and Anna Stromberg as Casey.

Playwright Catya McMullen is one to watch. Her dialogue is fresh and rings true, and it’s sweet to see Casey and Walter have their imaginative bouts of one-upmanship: “Would you still be my friend if I talked to pigeons? / If I was turned on by cacti? / If I exfoliated with falafel? / If I had a lucky merkin?” The actors bring a earnest vibrancy to their performances, from Josh Evans’ goofy Eli to Anna Stromberg’s ballsy but vulnerable Casey to JD Taylor’s troubled Walter. If the cast was sometimes a little too fast with their dialogue, it can be attributed to their enthusiasm for the text (and opening night excitement). And Scott Klopfenstein’s original music is beautifully complex, underscoring the grief felt by Walter and his friends.

The play’s ending felt a bit abrupt. Amy and Petey’s stories get short shrift (what happened to the Vanity Fair piece?), while Eli, Walter, and Casey reaffirm their bonds of friendship. But the plot isn’t necessarily the focus of Rubber Ducks and Sunsets. The characters are, as they forge new identities, support each other, and wear their hearts (unironically) on their sleeves.

Interview with Delysia LaChatte

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Delysia LaChatte, the “feline fatale of burlesque,” is throwing a Belle Époque-inspired event on Thursday. I was able to ask her a few questions about her inspirations, career, and the naughty association behind her name.

1) How did you come up with your name (pronounced De-li-see-yah La-Shot)?

I have my icons like Eartha Kitt and Josephine Baker (who was in love with all things French), and I wrote out a couple of different names that I liked from stories and books. One of the books, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, had this character named Delysia Lafosse, and I loved the way it rolled off the tongue. And I didn’t want to just be called “the cat.” There are a million cats in burlesque. So I decided I wanted the French word for cat… which is also… I didn’t realize how naughty “La Chatte” it is. (She laughs.)

So it also, conveniently enough, has a double association.

Yes.

What got you interested in burlesque? And how did you get started with it?

The first time I ever heard of burlesque was when my mother told me about the movie Gypsy starring Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood. We watched it together. I later taped it and often watched it as a pre-teen. I loved the idea of glamour and creating something out of nothing. I could relate to Rose Louise aka Gypsy in the movie, because she was the average one in the family. Not the beautiful one. Not the one with any huge talent. I was shy. I still am shy, and I dreamed of having a life where I could be that confident superstar on stage. I hadn’t thought of it in terms of burlesque back then because I had no idea that people still did it. But I used my drawings as my creative outlet. I would draw beautiful, colorful, confident sexy women all the time. And now I get to be any one of those drawings.

What are some of the things you deal with as a female performer of color in the burlesque community? Any positives? Negatives?I feel like it can be a gift and a curse. I think being a woman of color in burlesque makes you stand out. The same goes for plus-sized performers. It makes you special. I also feel that although there are so many of us on the scene, we get booked less for large scale events. It is my dream to be in the position to create these events that get us lots of attention and pay very well.

What is it like to produce your own work?

First, I started by producing with a group of my closest friends. We started a theater company called Stage of Fiends. I was the burlesque branch. Then the company split. They started to do more plays and cabarets, and I became a lone producer. I recently started co-producing again with other performers, but I also felt it was time for me to go out and do it alone. I didn’t want to compromise my ideas or have to depend on anyone, which is how it is to co-produce. It’s great because you have someone to talk to, bounce ideas off with and support, but at the same time if you have a complete vision it’s hard to make that happen. I will definitely co-produce again, but I needed one thing that is all me.

Tell me about your latest event, La Chatte’s Meow.I’ve been dreaming of doing this show for years now. La Chatte’s Meow is all about my dreams of burlesque, magic and side shows. This theme is based on Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, one of my favorite movies. It is the epitome of everything French, sexy and magical. We have some dragulesque performers like Markko Donto (La Wolverinna), who is amazing. It’s hosted by World Famous Bob and starring some of my favorite people and performers: Raquel Reed, Velocity Chyladd, Apathy Angel, and Stormy Leather, to name a few. There will also be tarot card readings, contortion, can-can dancers, a magician, and a human carpet! You name it, I want it to be happening here! The theme of my next event will be “The Last Unicorn” meets “Legend.”

What would you say to someone who is curious about seeing a burlesque show but has never gone before?Don’t be afraid to make noise! Hoot and holler when you see something amazing. We will not be offended.

La Chatte’s Meow is on Thursday, July 18th. For more information about Delysia and La Chatte’s Meow, visit her website: www.delysialachatte.com/

Sigh No More! Reasons Why Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado” is Amazing!

I hereby bestow on Joss Whedon the ability to adapt any bloody work of Shakespeare he so wishes into film (I believe that’s part of my abilities as an ex- English Major). And here’s why:

1) We Missed You, Whedonverse!

Audiences have been treating Much Ado as some weird departure from regular Joss Whedon material. Most of the man’s work comprises of action-adventure/ scifi-fantasy genre work with slick-talking, butt-kicking protagonists and large-scale production work. And yea, I guess when you put it that way, it does seem like a surprise move to follow the third highest grossing film of all time with a micro-budget, Shakespearean adaptation shot in Whedon’s house with actors whose names don’t rhyme with Bobert Mowney Punior.

BUT, I’d argue that Much Ado is very much in vein with Whedon’s work– in fact, much more so than The Avengers franchise. Five minutes into Much Ado and you get the odd sense that you’ve seen this before. The bound-for-love couple who express their love for each other with insults and denial.  The miscommunications that deeply wound otherwise wonderful relationships. The unique balance of a sharp, fun, and nuanced script with plenty of physical comedy. Like any good ‘auteur,’ Whedon takes his themes, his dramatic structure, his characters, from one of the greatest sources of Western storytelling and incorporates them into his unique creative vision, whether it be that of a teenage girl fighting big baddies or of rogue soldiers on the fringes of the galaxy. Shakespeare seems to be everywhere in contemporary culture, but Whedon truly knows how to use it for meet his own vision as a storyteller.

Also, how much fun was it to see our favorites from the Whedonverse! Who knows why Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker haven’t had roles as exciting as their Angel characters? Those two are just brilliant. Luckily, their versatility and charm are on full effect in Much Ado. Every time a Whedonverse actor appeared on screen, 50% of the audience gave a happy squeal (Andrew! was most audible) and with reason– Whedon’s assembled a great bunch of people over the years to do his bidding. The more, the merrier!

Get it, get it! Wes and Fred 4 Lyfe

2) LESS IS MORE

Like any normal six-year old, I regularly watched Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 adaptation of Much Ado. My 16 year old sister insisted I be a cultured second grader. This same sister also introduced me to Buffy and Angel and Firefly. (Come to think of it, she’d probably be a better source about the connections between Billy Shakes and Jossy Weed than me). Branagh’s version always existed as a kind of model for the way Much Ado plays out, so much so that even the Tennant/Tate partnership last year took came in second to it (you know, on the list I have on my wall next to my bed of the best Shakespeare adaptations ever.)

Tennant and Tate are chums…

…but Branagh and Thompson get it done

Rather than go for Branagh’s Italian villa setting or the Donmar’s 1980’s shindig, Whedon’s Much Ado is much simpler. The black-and-white movie, filmed completely in Whedon’s palace home, makes for some strikingly nuanced yet affirming visuals, and allows Shakespeare’s word to vibrate unhindered throughout the story. Maybe that’s why audiences seem surprised that they are actually able to understand the story in Whedon’s film. They’re unmediated, direct, and resounding.  (That being said, check out both other adaptations if the interest moves you. I personally like Branagh’s but the trick scenes in the Tennant/Tate production are pretty wonderful).

3) I don’t have a three. I guess…. Shakespeare’s awesome and I’m so glad that artists continue to push the boundaries of his work. Go team!

Andrew and Mal thank you for your time.

Age of Convoluted Blockbusters

http://badassdigest.com/2013/06/12/film-crit-hulk-smash-the-age-of-the-convoluted-blockbuster/

An excellent essay by the always insightful, intelligent, and presumably handsome FilmCritHulk. I feel exactly the same way about Star Trek, Man of Steel, and the past season of Doctor Who.

CHARLES IVES TAKE ME HOME @ Rattlestick Playwrights Theater

A classical symphony and a basketball game may not have much in common, especially when each event is played by an estranged father and his daughter. Their complex relationship is explored in Charles Ives Take Me Home, now playing at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.

The three-character play begins with composer Charles Ives (Henry Stram) introducing us to high school basketball coach Laura Starr (Kate Nowlin) and her father, Julliard-trained violinist John Starr (Drew McVety). Divorced dad John has trouble relating to Laura, who has been interested in basketball since she was a young child. The sports gene has skipped a generation, as John’s father was a sports fiend who didn’t appreciate his son’s love for music. Laura never inherited her dad’s musical passion, but she makes attempts to understand it—dribbling in rhythm to his list of musical terminology, reading about John’s idol Charles Ives, even picking up the violin to see how it feels. Unfortunately, John doesn’t always return that understanding, causing a tension in their relationship that builds until Laura announces that she’s been accepted to a Midwestern college on a basketball scholarship.

The characters often directly address the audience: Charles Ives as an eccentric yet gentle narrator, John as a confessional, and Laura as an emotionally-charged pep talk to her team. They also interact with one another in scenes presented in loose chronological order. The resulting combination shows the dissonance between Laura and John. Dissonance is also a distinguishing feature in Ives’ music, even though Ives saw the harmony in his family as well as in his compositions.

All three actors make a terrific ensemble. Kate Nowlin is athletic and disarmingly captivating as Coach Laura and adorable as the wide-eyed younger incarnation of a girl eager to earn her father’s approval. Drew McVety is charming and oh-so-tragic as music obsessed but emotionally distant John, and Henry Stram brings a warm, engaging presence to Charles Ives (and is the first person I’ve ever seen whose eyes actually twinkle).

The set, designed by Andromache Chalfant, is both compact and beautiful: a playing space lightly furnished and covered in wood paneling, with each character having their own playing space—for violin tuning and layups. (The sound of Laura’s Nikes squeaking on the floorboards is a realistic and fun surprise.) Daniella Topol’s direction is clean and showcases playwright Jessica Dickey’s humorous and cohesive dialogue. There is also some fabulous violin and piano playing by Mr. McVety and Mr. Stram respectively: their scene together, with Charles Ives coaching a young John, is a memorable one.

Despite the angst and misunderstandings, Charles Ives deftly illustrates the poignancy of a father-daughter relationship. One of the play’s final lines is, “Will Laura Starr make it?” As the lights dim, I suspect that both she—and her father—will.

The Comedy of Errors at Shakespeare in the Park

When I took a Shakespeare class in college, The Comedy of Errors was the first play we read. I remember gearing up, collecting all my English major prowess, ready to tackle probably the best writer of the English language.

Well, Comedy of Errors ain’t no Hamlet. This fact can be a little frustrating (especially if you dived into the play expecting roaring soliloquies and poignant cultural critique) but for the most part, it’s amazingly refreshing. Errors pretty much allows you to sit back and enjoy the ride, which comes complete with lots of laughs and a happy ending.

Shakespeare in the Park’s Errors is perfectly cast. I’ve only seen Hamish Linklater in three roles but those three have shown me what a versatile and engaging actor he is. Jesse Tyler Ferguson also gets back to his theater roots, displaying his great comedic timing, nuanced delivery, and altogether fun presence (Let me take this moment to gloat that I saw 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee for my birthday several years ago and then saw JTF in a theater lobby a few months ago and I said hi and told him that he was awesome and he was really kind and okay I’m done now).

Together, Linklater and Ferguson have excellent chemistry as Antipholus and Dromio… or should I say, Antipholi and Dromios. You see, they play sets of twins– one from the play’s setting, Ephesus, and the other from nearby Syracuse. The Antipholi were separated in a shipwreck, along with their servants the Dromios. Antipholus of Syracuse arrives at Ephesus with his Dromio to search for his Ephesian brother. The Syracuse set are usually played as well-mannered and more civilized than their Ephesian counterparts, and this production plays along with the trope. It’s quite fun to see both actor get to play aristocrats as well as seedy bullies in the same play.

It also means that the duo are on stage for nearly the whole play. Scene changes are aided by swing dance interludes, some clever trap doors, and presumably a lot of running on Linklater’s and Ferguson’s parts.

While I praise the acting, I felt that there were a lot of strange choices in the show that were probably done with comedic intent but fell a bit flat. Every five or so minutes there would be a joke that felt stale, out-of-place, or just a bit uncomfortable to watch. Take for example, Egeon’s puppet and boat shtick during his expository monologue. As he describes his sons’ separation, he pulls out four dolls and a ship mast from his briefcase, and virtually acts out the shipwreck with puppets. I mean, I guess it was cute? The only way I felt it was funny was in a self-referential way– Egeon’s LONG monologue is notorious as evidence that Shakespeare was still getting the hang of things in this early work. Thus, a puppet show might have been kind of like saying “Yea, we know this bit is long and boring and we don’t really know what else to do with it *shake fist at Shakespeare*” But honestly, you’re Shakespeare in the Park. AND you’ve got Hamish Linklater and Jesse Tyler Ferguson waiting in the wings to come out which you guys do a puppet show? And you couldn’t figure out a more clever or creative way to get this done?

There are other jokes and gags that just felt inappropriate or unfunny. The gorgeous De’Andre Aziza has her comedic talent wasted by relegating her to shaking her boobs and making funny faces behind a nun’s back. Huh? Even JTF and Linklater had some lines that never really found their mark, not particularly because of their delivery but because of mismatched environments or missed set-ups. There were a few moments throughout the play when the actors interrupted the script with more contemporary interjections, which could have been funny but instead felt like pandering to a supposedly text-savvy contemporary audience.

Oh, and guess what? When you have one actor playing two characters, what are you supposed to do when those two characters finally meet on stage in the last scene? If you’re the Public Theater, you do something clever, something witty, something self-referential and pointed. You DON’T have two random cast members fill in for the missing characters, keep their backs turned to the audience, and give all their lines to their counterparts so they don’t have to speak. Honestly, everyone in the audience is waiting to see what the Public will do when the brothers finally confront each other. We know there’s only one actor, that’s part of the marvel of the rest of the play. The choice to step around the falseness of the last scene and ignore it instead of confronting it head-on with some hilarious new possibility (Think something along the lines of the ‘fifth actor’ in The 39 Steps)– that choice kills the tone of the play’s ending. Errors’s ending is supposed to inspire brotherhood and community. Brotherhood is not trying to get away with having faceless, voiceless actors play parts that the audience knows don’t actually belong to them.

To end on a positive note, though, much of Errors does hit its mark. You’ve got kitchen appliances, demonic possessions, a faux-Freud psychologist, a fat lady being compared to a globe in an epic extended metaphor, some Python-esque running around, nuns with guns, mobsters recitating Shakespeare with accents from The Sopranos, and tons more. Not to mention a bright, revolving set that is almost as entrancing as the actors on stage.

P.S. Even though Errors is most likely the lightest of Shakespeare’s comedies, there’s a lot of interesting themes to look into. In my Shakespeare class, we looked at the play as a troubled reflection on a rapidly industrializing and mercantile Elizabethan London, where citizens are surrounded by strangeness and can’t seem to find their way in the world. Also, does anyone else see a similarity between Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw and Errors?  Plot-wise they’re pretty goshdarn similar, minus the cross-dresssing, and the ending is pretty interesting if you consider the role of the family in restoring the social status quo. I totally don’t miss school, if you can’t tell.

Art Imitates Life in “Geppetto” at HERE

1 Geppetto-Photo by Stefan Hagen-w

Geppetto is one of the many multimedia, multigenre productions that the HERE Arts Center offers. Part one-man show, part puppet theater, part musical performance, Geppetto‘s unique storytelling elements makes its short hour-long run performance a special one.

Geppetto, presented by Concrete Temple Theater, opens upon a puppetry workshop. Different styles of puppets and puppetry tools line the walls, as do posters announcing past productions by the Mythic Puppet Theater, led by husband and wife duo Geppetto and Donna. Each show adapts a classic Greek myth. We learn, however, that Donna has died recently, and her grieving husband must now produce a puppet show on his own. He decides to revive one of their classics. But when he tries to play all the parts at once, his puppets end up in shambles. Gepetto’s vain attempts to put on a show (he first tries out Perseus and Andromeda, then Helen and Menelaus) are sometimes comic as he juggles around puppets and ‘improvises’ mythological scenes. But overall, Geppetto cannot compensate for his lost partner. He cannot revisit the past as if she were still alive–and the tone remains somber throughout his mistakes.

The role of mythology in this play is a complex one. Myths are cultural essentials. You cannot improvise, change, or revise a myth. Geppetto cannot, for example, change the ending of Helen’s fate or make Perseus kill the monster with a hammer instead of a sword, because they are unchangeable. He is virtually stuck in his own productions, much like he is stuck in his grief. His loneliness confines him, just as the myths confine his storytelling.

On the other hand, Geppetto also shows the cultural importance of mythology in the act of healing. Geppetto’s last attempt to revive his plays is a production of Orpheus and Eurydice (probably my second favorite myth next to Cupid and Psyche). Orpheus is a famed musician who journeys to the underworld to revive his dead wife Eurydice. Hades approves her return on the condition that Orpheus must not look at his wife until they have reached the land of the living. For reasons that differ depending on which account you read, Orpheus looks at Eurydice in the final moments of their return, Eurydice is plunged back into the underworld,  and Orpheus loses his wife for the remainder of his life. The fact that Geppetto’s emotional journey matches Orpheus’s is not lost on the puppeteer, and through the story, he comes to the realization that he has, in fact, lost his wife forever. She cannot return, nor can he continue as if she has. Geppetto’s decision and his subsequent hope is truly touching as he frees himself from his grief and from his mythic confinements.

The play, written by Renee Philippi, was inspired by an interview with double amputee Hugh Herr, whose recovery resulted in a revelation that his loss can become his strength. He now can wear different ‘feet’ for different occasions (making him a much better athletic than most).  While the play is quite layered with themes of loss and redemption, no part was as potent as the play’s ending. I wished that some of Geppetto’s puppet shows were perhaps a little shorter, or at least richer with emotion, but hey, this is a family-friendly show too. Carlo Adinolfi is engaging as an actor and a puppeteer. But the real star of the show is Lewis Flinn’s hauntingly beautiful score, played on a single cello by Jeanette Stenson. The music truly provides layers of depth to this simple production and highlights the mythic proportions of Geppetto’s journey into new selfhood.

Geppetto runs through June 30. Get tickets HERE (lol pun!)

Nota Bene: This production is in no way, shape, or form related to this masterful work of film, also entitled “Geppetto.”

Basilica at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater

Father Gil (Alfredo Narciso) and Lela (Selenis Leyva) unwillingly revisit old memories

The Cherry Lane Theatre always offers exciting new plays and Basilica, written by Mando Rivera, is no exception. There’s plenty to note about this production, particularly its outstanding Latino cast. It’s comforting to see that there are strong roles out there for Latino actors, as well as opportunities for writers to explore a growing Hispanic-American experience.

In fact, at its start, the events surrounding the Garza family sound like those in any typical family drama by <insert famous American playwright here.> High school senior Ray (Jake Cannavale, though played by understudy Oscar Cabrera at our show)  aims for more than his small-town life in San Juan, Texas can afford. He subverts his father’s expectations when he gets accepted and decides to enroll in a liberal arts school in Chicago, escaping a seeming cycle of alcoholism, depression, and low ambition exhibited by his father Joe (expertly played by Felix Solis) and drinking buddy Cesar (a natural Bernardo Cubría).

Things get complicated when a new priest arrives at the basilica (kind of like a super-church) who has a hidden past involving Ray’s mother Lela (Leyva). You don’t really need to be accomplished theater critics like ourselves to figure out what’s going on and its implications.

What does set this family apart from other conventional theater families is their incredible dependence on religion. Each family member has their own unique relationship to Catholicism– whether its Lela’s devotional self-sacrifice and passivity to God’s will, Father Gil’s resentful and guilt-induced holiness, or Joe’s unwilling awe– a strange Trinity of sorts. The Garza children are still experimenting with religion. Ray borders on indifferent while sister Jessica is seen trying her hand at voodoo, Islam, and Buddhism.

Structurally, Act 1 is solid. It exposes conflicts and character dynamics in a way that sympathizes with but also distances us from their actions. The writing is funny, light, but also tightly structured. In the second act, however, things begin to unravel with a TOTALLY unexpected plot twist that feels terribly unnecessary. In fact, I feel like I speak for the audience when I say that we actually felt much more interested in the plot’s resolution had said plot twist been absent. Also, sister Jessica’s weird fascination with a missing imaginary friend and experimental religious practices is never fully explained or resolved and leaves a bit of a hole in our understanding of the play’s relationship to religion.

Basilica really excels in its technical aspects. Set Design adds quite some layer to the family dynamics. A bar, the basilica, and the Garza foyer functionally meld into one set. At their crossing, a gaping cross looms over the stage which, when lit, is quite imposing. Sound design also proves essential to setting the tone for this family tragi-comedy. I’d probably grab a track or two if ’twere downloadable.

All of the adult actors give vivid performances. While I want to single out Felix Solis and Selenis Leyva for their genuine, dynamic performances, I’d feel remiss in not mentioning Bernardo Cubría and Rosal Colón for their supporting roles as goofy Cesar and embittered Lou. Oscar Cabrera also gave a star turn in his performance. Norma and I caught glimpses of Oscar’s rehearsals before the performance (his first in the role), which made us all the more excited to see him perform.

Basilica plays through June 22nd.

Tony Awards 2013 and the Magic of Broadway

TonyAwards-328x253.328.254

Theatre is hurting. Arts funding, both at an educational and professional level, is getting harder and harder to come by. Theatre companies all over the country have to make cuts to their cast sizes, seasons, and staff. Theatre salaries for working actors pale in comparison to more lucrative paychecks in film, television, commercials, voiceovers… just about any performing work that isn’t done live on a stage.

revolution promo
This two-second clip paid more than the four theatre gigs I did that year. True story.

Broadway, while being the biggest form of theatre in the US, doesn’t go unscathed. Think piece after think piece examines the state of Broadway’s uncertain state with critically acclaimed shows that close too soon, audiences that skew older, wealthier, and whiter, and the constant onslaught of celebrity vehicles, jukebox musicals, and uninspired revivals. With musical theatre becoming more of a niche art form and straight plays following close behind, it can be all too easy to look at the state of Broadway—and theatre as a whole—with a jaundiced eye.

And then this year’s Tony Awards happened. We at LMezz got to see the Tonys not once, but twice, as Sara won a pair of tickets to their dress rehearsal held earlier that morning.

nphdogtonys2013
Yes, he did this twice.

This year’s show featured Simba, Velma Kelly, Annie, and other beloved characters from current Broadway shows as presenters, showcased awesome original numbers, and had some of the most inspiring acceptance speeches ever. From Broadway legends to Broadway debuts, stage managers to composers, directors to lighting designers, every person at Radio City Music Hall was there because they loved theatre. And that includes the movie star wanting to build their theatre cred. The producer hoping their Tony win increases their box office sales. The diva who wants all eyes on them.

Host Neil Patrick Harris said it (or sung it) best during the opening number (whose lyrics were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda):

“There’s a kid in the middle of nowhere who’s sitting there living for Tony performances…So we might reassure that kid, and do something to spur that kid, ’cause I promise you all of us out there tonight, we were that kid.”

With all the problems Broadway has, there are still creators. There are still productions. And most importantly, there are still audiences who love to enter a theatre and see magic be made.

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