Buckle up theatre friends, January 2020 was INCREDIBLY full of theatre fun. Let’s get into it!
On January 2nd I flew to NYC to catch Freestyle Love Supreme before their January 12th closing. If you’ve been under a rock, FLS is a freestyle/improv/rap performance started by Lin-Manuel Miranda and his friends way before he was putting up Tony-winning musicals on Broadway. The show is different every night, built of off audience suggestions and experiences, and the cast is comprised of different performers every night. For this first show of 2020, FLS was comprised of Anthony Veneziale (aka Two Touch), Aneesa Folds (aka Young Nees), Chris Sullivan (aka Shockwave), Utkarsh Ambudkar (aka UTK the INC), Andrew Bancroft (aka Jelly Donut), Arthur Lewis (aka Arthur the Geniuses), and Kurt Crowley (aka The Lord & Lady Crowley). The show was so amazing – both hilarious and heart-warming. They used one of my words (“Authentic” – written on a card and placed in a bucket before the show) in their Foundations of Freestyle bit. And a little later, Two Touch took my shouted suggestion of “multi-level marketing” when they asked for things we hate (even though he admitted he didn’t know what it was and hilarity ensued). After the show I met several cast members at the stage door, and they were all super nice and took time to talk to each of us. Rumor has it that a tour is in the works, but who knows where FLS will pop up next! Definitely go see them as often as you get the chance!
I left NYC for an intentional theatre trip to Chicago and on January 4th some friends and I saw the national tour of Mean Girls at the Nederlander Theatre. The book and lyrics have been noticeably changed since the Broadway production and the recording of the cast album, so that was a fun surprise. The show is still just as fun as I remembered, and I really enjoyed seeing it again!
January 5th was the real point of my trip to Chicago – the closing show of Hamilton in Chicago (#OneLastCHI). The theatre was buzzing with energy and I spotted several original Chicago cast members in the crowd. Everyone’s stage entrance was greeted with cheering and applause, but Miguel Cervantes got a standing ovation for at least a full minute upon his entrance as Alexander Hamilton. Tamar Greene received a similar ovation following “One Last Time”. Everyone in the audience (definitely including myself) was seemingly crying through the entire show. Afterwards the stage door line stretched around the block, but many actors came out and I was thrilled to congratulate them all. Miguel had to run to an event at the restaurant across the street, so I didn’t get to congratulate him unfortunately. I’ll tell him next time I see him, I suppose!
After the drama of the closing show, it was only appropriate that we had a Hamiltunes Dallas event soon after on January 15th. This event was at a first-time venue for us, the Deep Ellum Art Co. The crowd wasn’t as large as it has been in past, but everyone was super engaged and had a great time!
On January 22nd I headed back to NYC with my friend Lynette for BroadwayCon and all the shows! That night’s show was the much-anticipated Hadestown at the Walter Kerr Theatre! The show was INCREDIBLE. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s an intermingling of the Greek mythology love stories of Hades & Persephone and Orpheus & Eurydice told through New Orleans-style jazz and blues music. I’ve been in love with the cast recording for so long and seeing it onstage was just the best. This is going to be a show that, like Hamilton, I could see again and again. Stage door was a long process on this particular night, but I got to meet some wonderfully talented and sweet people.
January 23rd was a two-show day for us on Broadway! First we saw the matinee of Moulin Rouge at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. A few of the leads were out, but it didn’t detract from the show in the least. The set is gorgeous, of course. The show is a visual feast – much like the movie – full of details and beauty and movement. The show has nods to those who loved the original movie but the music has been updated with some more recent songs. It’s not the best show I’ve ever seen or anything, but it’s a damn good time and I would see it again if/when it goes on tour. Stage door looked like a mob scene and we needed to get dinner, so we skipped it.
After dinner, we went to the evening performance of Jagged Little Pill at the Broadhurst Theatre. I CANNOT BE MORE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR NEED TO SEE THIS SHOW. The music is obviously Alanis Morrissette songs (not exclusively from the JLP album), but the story revolves around a family and related friends dealing with adoption, opiate addiction, sexual assault, gender identity, and other progressive issues of our current time. I’ve always loved these songs as this is the music of my teen years, but giving them context in this way is so incredibly powerful. Lauren Patten (“Jo”) is a force to be reckoned with onstage. The stage door was crowded but we stayed and got autographs but not pictures. Did I mention to go see this show?!
On January 24th, we went to the Winter Garden Theatre to see Beetlejuice. It’s so so funny! The cast is so skilled at playing the jokes so well that it feels improvised (though Alex Brightman explained at BroadwayCon that there is almost no improv in the show). This show makes light of death (because as the lyric says, “that’s the thing about life, no one makes it out alive”) but also pays homage to the original movie. The set is STUNNING (thank you, David Korins) and the performances are over-the-top. Aiden would love this one! I can’t wait for it to tour.
January 25th was our day to see Hamilton on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. We stopped by the bar to wish Happy Birthday to Mike Anthony (the bar manager) and went to our super awesome seats (truly I think front row of the front mezz center is the best view in the house at this theatre). Several former Chicago and Philip Tour cast members joined the Broadway company this week, so it was great to see favorites from several Hamilton companies all together on stage. This was my second time seeing the show on Broadway (#12 overall) and it was my first time to stage door here. Hamilton people are just the nicest people, and this was no exception. If you still haven’t seen this show, just do it. Save your pennies, play the ticket lottery, buy the worst seat in the house – it’s worth it to be in the room anyway you can.
On January 26th we saw our last show of the trip, the off-broadway production of Emojiland at The Duke on 42nd. This is such a fun show! I did note a few areas for improvement that could be made before a potential Broadway run, but the characters are engaging and the music is great. I wish we could have stayed for the stage door here, but we had a plane to catch so we had to run.
WOW! That is 9 professional shows in January, not a single one at home! It was a whirlwind of plane rides and playbills, and I am so glad it happened. Come back next month for a much shorter show recap!