A Little Update

Hi all,

It’s been a busy week.  On Monday, I began rehearsals for the play I am working on.  There isn’t so much for me to do, but it is great just to be a part of a professional production in New York City.  The cast is really inspirational, and I think I have made some great friends in the stage management crew.

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Chili and a burrito in a jar. Photo by Jaymie Bellous.

On Tuesday, I had a day off from rehearsal, so I cooked up some lunches and dinners to last me through my busy upcoming week.  I learned from this article how to pack salads and other meals into mason jars, where they can be preserved for several days.  It’s a great way to save money too because you buy a bag of groceries and use up every last morsel of food in a meal, rather than letting that leftover half of a carrot waste away in your fridge.  My meals included a Super Food Burrito in a Jar, Sweet Potato Chili with Kale, and a vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie based on this recipe and this recipe.

After that, I saw the Broadway revival of Pippin starring Patina Miller.  An overall really great production with some spectacular circus feats.  Rachel Bay Jones completely stole the show as Catherine, the quirky and spastic ingenue in the second act.  Her performance reminded me of a comedy legend like Carol Burnett or Amy Poehler.  While many of the Broadway regulars in the cast dazzled with splashy circus tricks, Jones is the lone member of the cast that does not partake in the illusions and gymnastics.  Her comedic prowess cuts through the flashy effects, leaving a lasting impression.

And finishing off my week of theatre-going, I saw the new play Stage Kiss at playwrights horizons last night.  But that is worthy of it’s own post–coming soon!

Kinky Boots

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The complimentary pin for winners. Photo by Jaymie Bellous.

I really don’t want to jinx it, but I tend to have great luck with winning lottery tickets to Broadway shows but not with getting rush tickets.  As of now, I am three-for-three.  Last year, I won lottery tickets to Newsies; this past fall, I won one seat to Matilda; and today, I won the lottery for Kinky Boots.

This 2013 winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical (among many others) was based on the 2005 film of the same name.  Following the plot of the film closely, Kinky Boots tells the story of Charlie, a young man who inherits a struggling shoe factory from his father.  The factory produces sensible men’s loafer shoes, and as Charlie soon learns, the factory produces the shoes even when there are no buyers.  One day after visiting his fiancée in London, Charlie attempts to help a woman, who is being harassed by a couple of hoodlums.  Charlie underestimates her self-defense abilities and ends up accidentally getting knocked out when he tries to help.

Cut to a vibrant bar, where Lola is the starring act in a drag show.  When she steps off stage, she greets Charlie, whom she brought back to the bar to rest.  Charlie, the shoe connoisseur, notices the broken heel on one of Lola’s boots and begins to hatch a brilliant plan.  The drag queens at the bar perform in women’s boots that could not possibly hold up the weight of a man’s body.  Why not create a heel designed to support the body of a drag queen?  In an endeavor to save his father’s factory, Charlie switches from making plain, leather shoes to extravagant and colorful stiletto boots that will stomp down the runways of Milan.

Billy Porter as Lola with the cast of Kinky Boots. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Kinky Boots takes the audience on a roller coaster of emotions, from the exuberant joy over the prototypes of their new kinky boots to the painful apologies that come after accepting those we’ve judged.  You see, on the surface, Kinky Boots has the parts that make up your typical Broadway musical: flashy and ornate costumes, music that makes you want to dance in the aisles, and well-known source material. 

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The marquee of the Al Hirschfield Theatre. Photo by Jaymie Bellous

  Yet behind all of the sequins and eye shadow, the strongest scenes in Kinky Boots are the ones that tug hard on the heartstrings.  Tony Award-winner Billy Porter, who stars as Lola, ignites these moving scenes with unabashed honesty and vulnerability.  Those tears won’t last for long, though, with Porter on stage.  In the next moment, the audience will no doubt erupt with laughter from a Lola one-liner.

Jerry Mitchell’s direction and choreography were innovative and fanciful, featuring the actors performing acrobatic tricks on tread mills in the first act’s finale.  Harvey Fierstein’s riveting kept this viewer at the edge of his seat, and Fierstein’s script provides the actors with the right material to make their performances honest and grounded.  Kinky Boots features a rocking score by Cyndi Lauper with standouts like the seductive tango number “What A Woman Wants” and the inspiring finale that had the audience clapping along, “Raise You Up/Just Be.”

Plot Twist

This morning I had a second interview for that front desk job.

I arrived about fifteen minutes early (after having to run with my breakfast in hand to catch the subway).  When I got there, I was told that the manager of the company, who I would be interviewing with, was running late.  Not a problem.

When he arrived, he walked right past me and shut the door.  I then proceeded to overhear a conversation in which it sounded like he didn’t really want to hire anyone new.  He just wanted to get their current front desk people to work full time.  Well, after all that, I get brought in for the interview, and he kept telling me that it was a full time position, even though at my last interview, I was told that it was only going to be part time.  I was so confused.

The rest of the day I spent reconnecting with old friends and making a new one.  I met up with a family friend (Hi, Isaac!), who is very well connected in the theatre community out here.  I got to meet his adorable Italian greyhound puppy (You’d be jealous, Sarah!).  He was even kind enough to send my resume in for a production assistant job.  When I was on the train home, I got two e-mails, both job offers; one for the front desk job and one for the production assistant job.  Both positions unfortunately conflict, so I have to pick one over the other.

After thinking about it all day, I’m going to take the production assistant job.  It’s not the kind of job that will pay my bills–I’ll still need to find one of those–but this job is part of my reason for moving out here.  I know it will be a great stepping stone toward greater things.

Throwback Thursday to 1812

While sequentially this should have been the topic of my first post, I thought it would be a great idea to post my review of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.  I was fortunate enough to see the closing performance last Sunday.

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Yours truly after the performance. Photo by Sinan Zafar.

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 or “The Great Comet,” as it is called for short, is an Off-Broadway rock opera based on a portion of War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  Now, if you are not a fan of complicated Russian novels, you will be relieved to know that “The Great Comet” is not presented in a tight-laced, high-collared way.  The vibrant score blends folk rock and electronic pop with a touch of Klezmer to give off the Russian feel.  You enter Kazino, the performance space, to find a red-curtained room modeled after a Russian supper club.  The audience sits at tables and bar stools and the stage resembles a bar that snakes around the audience.  There were a few small bandstands on either side of the room where the musicians played and the action of the play took place in every which direction.  One moment you might be watching a scene take place across the room and the next minute, you hear an actor behind you beginning the next song.  The effect is invigorating and chilling.

The interior of Kazino. Photo by Chad Batka.

The story follows Natasha, who is waiting for her fiancee, Andrey, to return from the war.  One day, while at a performance of a pretentious opera, Natasha meets Anatole, a dashing young officer.  Natasha begins to fall in love with Anatole, torn between her love for him and her fiancee.  There are many more characters involved, all with complicated connections in true Russian literary fashion.  In the opening number, the actors address the audience directly to introduce all the characters, while reminding the audience that “this is all in your program / You are at the opera / Gonna have to study up a little bit If you wanna keep with the plot / Cuz it’s a complicated Russian novel  / Everyone’s got nine different names / So look it up in your program
/ We’d appreciate it, thanks a lot.”

Philippa Soo as Natasha. Photo by Chad Batka

Philipa Soo dazzles in the title role.  At the start, I dismissed her as just another dewy-eyed ingenue, but after her first aria, Soo really established Natasha’s steadfast love for Andrey. Grace McLean is another standout as Marya D, Natasha’s “strict but kind” godmother.  McLean’s voice has a bravado reminiscent of Ethel Merman that is just so rare in the American musical theatre these days.  Her portrayal of Marya D had many layers; and once you cracked her warm-hearted and extravagant exterior, the morally staunch protector of Natasha was revealed.  Other standouts in the cast included: the multitalented David Abelles as the titular Pierre, who also played a few musical instruments; Briitain Ashford as Natasha’s cousin and confidant Sonya, with a voice that reminded me of Joni Mitchell; Amber Gray as the brazen Hélène; and Katrina Yaukey, who took on a variety of roles with aplomb.

It is a shame that the production has now ended, but I doubt we’ve seen the last of “The Great Comet.”  With such a strong cast, riveting score by Dave Malloy, and a brilliant concept and direction by Rachel Chavkin, I hope to see “The Great Comet” remounted in another city or perhaps–On Broadway.

On My Way

Today, I had a job interview!  It was for the position I mentioned in my last post.  I’m starting to get my bearings with the layout of the city and using the subway.  The job interview was in Battery Park, one of the lowest parts of Manhattan, which is where the ferries to the Statue of Liberty leave.  Some of the rooms in the building where I’ll be working have a beautiful view of the statue.  I wish I had taken a photo!  I guess if I get the job, I’ll have a better opportunity to snap one.

All of my possessions finally arrived yesterday, and I spent the entire day unpacking and organizing.  My belongings were shipped via FedEx, who gives a very broad timeline for their deliveries.  I woke up at 7am and sat by the window waiting for the truck to arrive.  I counted at least six FedEx trucks that drove up near my apartment, double parked, and then delivered to somewhere else.  Finally, around 1pm, I heard a ring at my doorbell.  The delivery had arrived while I was in the shower, and the cafe downstairs kindly took it in for me until I had a chance to carry all of the boxes up to my room.

Living in such a small space, it is important for me to stay organized.  With such a small closet, I ended up having to fold all of my T-shirts, something I am not accustomed to doing.  I saw this great suggestion online to organize T-shirts standing up like files, rather than stacking them, so that they are all easily accessible.  It seems to have worked out pretty well so far.

Last night, I went to the grocery store across the street.  It had pretty negative Yelp reviews for its rude employees and lack of cleanliness.  I decided to ignore the reviews and go anyways, since it is just across the street.  After all, I was only planning on getting something sweet like Oreos or ice cream.  I saw that Hagen Dazs pints were on sale if you bought two, so I grabbed two containers and headed to check out.  Now, here is where things got tricky.  I pointed out that the ice cream was on sale, even though I didn’t get the sale price.  In a very thick  accent, one that I didn’t recognize, the cashier said, “You need to have a club card.”

“I don’t have one,” I replied, “How do I get one?”  Instead of answering my question, she made a big show of digging through her drawer to find an extra one.  She acted as if I was begging her to climb Mount Everest, when really I just wanted to save a few dollars on ice cream.  Finally, among a sea of rolled-up receipts, she found the tiny little club card and scanned it for me.  I then asked again, “So, where might I apply for one of those cards?”  She pointed off in another direction without a word.  I figured I ought not bother with applying for one, since there is another market down the street that has much better reviews on Yelp, and it’s called California Farmers Market.  I wonder if their produce will live up to a true California farmer’s market.  I’ll have to let you know how that goes.

The City That Never Sleeps

Well, here I am.  I finally made it to New York City.  I am living in a neighborhood called Astoria in the borough of Queens, just northeast of Manhattan (the area that outsiders consider to be “New York City”).  I live with one other room mate, a singer and music therapist, in a tiny apartment that sits right on top of a very popular cafe.  My window looks out to 31st Street, a bustling street lined with little restaurants and markets and complete with two CVS’ and two Chase Banks, one on each side of the street.  The N/Q line of the subway is on 31st Street, and it is a mere two-minute walk to hop on a subway that can take me anywhere else in the city.

While living right on this street is majorly convenient, it is also excruciatingly loud.  My first night here, while I was trying to fall asleep, I could hear every subway car, every garbage truck, every car horn, every hoot and holler, every footstep that passed by my window.  Not to mention that my stuff hasn’t arrived yet, so I don’t have my pillows or blankets to keep me comfortable.  Luckily, the friend that I am subleasing from left behind his pillows and sheets, but they just aren’t the same.  Needless to say, it has not been easy to sleep, but I am hoping that I will learn how to drown out all the noise.

And now, it is time to hunt for a job.  I have a friend who works for the New York Film Academy, so he is going to try to get me a job there.  I hear they are looking for some help with their front desk.  It would be a great fit for me because I really enjoy working in arts administration.  Then, hopefully I could move up to working for an off-Broadway theatre company like Playwrights Horizons or The Signature Center, two of my favorites in New York City.

That’s all for now.  I will keep you all updated later this week.