Saturday, October 18, 2008

Been to the City for a Show with No Name

Posted by Bruce Miller
I don’t know why I’m waxing at such length about our Columbus Day Weekend excursion to the Big Apple. I hope it’s not boring.

The trip itself wasn’t boring at all. We flew out of Richmond on JetBlue on Saturday morning, departing RIC at 10:05 am and disembarking at JFK at 11:18. JetBlue is the Official Airline of Barksdale / Theatre IV. This, however, was a family trip and so my family paid for the tickets in full. They were a good deal at $59 each, one way, before taxes and fees.

To get from the airport to mid-town, we took the AirTrain to Jamaica Station, and then the E train subway into Manhattan. It’s about a 45-minute commute between the jet and Broadway; it’s comfortable; it costs less than $4.50 per person if you buy the right MetroCards.

Even though we were staying at the Milford, we left the subway at 53rd and 7th. I much prefer walking down Broadway and through Times Square to get to the Milford (45th and 8th) rather than walking up 8th from the 42nd St Port Authority subway stop.

Honoring the request of our late friend, we all shouted “Martha Newell” as our feet hit Broadway for the first time this trip.

On the way to the Milford, we stopped to eat lunch at Café Edison on 47th Street between Broadway and 8th—good, cheap, fast and very NYC. From Café Edison, Terrie and Curt schlepped the bags to the Milford while Hannah and I went to the TKTS Booth for half-price matinee tickets. Hannah and I are theatre junkies who enjoy seeing two shows in a day. Terrie and Curt like to relax and walk around the city in the afternoon and only see one show a day. Different strokes.

One of the shows Hannah and I most wanted to see was [title of show]. No, I didn’t forget to fill in the title; that is the title. Our friend and fellow theatre junkie, Lizzie Holland, had been raving about this small new musical since she saw it last summer. She and her parents think it would be a perfect show for Barksdale, and since it was closing this weekend, [title of show] was next to South Pacific on the top of our “must see” list.

As we ventured toward the end of the 45-minute TKTS line, we passed a half-price ticket promoter calling out the name of [title of show]. We told her we were interested, and she gave us a flyer that allowed us to purchase half-price tickets at the box office rather than waiting in the TKTS line for three quarters of an hour. [title of show] was playing at the Lyceum on 45th between Broadway and 6th, so we walked to the theatre in about 5 minutes. Using the flyer at the box office, we not only bagged half-price tickets, we also avoided the $4 per ticket service charge that one incurs at the TKTS Booth. And we were able to put it on my credit card—something that until this week was verboten on the TKTS line.

By avoiding the wait in line, we wound up with an hour to kill, so we rejoined Terrie and Curt at the Milford. I’ve stayed at the Milford a hundred times, and always found it satisfactory. It’s the cheapest of the decent hotels in the theatre district, or the most decent of the cheap hotels. And it has lots of rooms, so when the Edison (my favorite affordable hotel) books up early, which it always seems to do, I often can still find a room at the Milford.

This time, even booking more than two months in advance and using on-line rates, the Milford cost $309 before taxes for Saturday night and $279 before taxes for Sunday. That seems really expensive to me, but it’s the best rate I could find. And the only way to get that rate was to reserve for three nights and then call back and cancel one of the three. When I tried to book for two nights, the computer indicated that the Milford was sold out.

There was a street market on 8th Avenue last Saturday, so Hannah and I checked out a few of the booths before heading back to the Lyceum for our 3 o’clock curtain. She bought her second pashmina—a real deal at only $5.

We absolutely LOVED [title of show]. With music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen and a book by Hunter Bell, [title of show] documents its own creation, telling the story of two Broadway theatre junkies who attempt over a three-week period to create a new script and score to enter into the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Bowen and Bell, who not only wrote but also play themselves in the show, determined to write an original musical rather than adapt a play or movie into a musical. They discovered almost immediately that their conversations about what to write were more interesting than the ideas they were coming up with for an original show. And so the idea to document the creation of the creation of the show itself became clearer (or as the show states, "a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical"). After the show was accepted into the festival, Bell and Bowen expanded the script based on their writing experiences with friends Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff, who also play themselves in the Broadway production.

[title of show] is a classic post-modern work-in-progress, with updates reflecting the circumstances the cast and the show have experienced added to the show as it progressed from Off-Off-Broadway to Off-Broadway to Broadway. Now that it will be moving on to regional productions, it will be interesting to see if the rewriting continues.

Since I love the show, I’m asking myself the following questions:
1. Will it work as well with actors other than the original creators playing themselves?
2. Does it include too much Broadway insider information and perspective to appeal to a Richmond subscription audience?
3. Will the original creators trust the work to a small regional theatre, and if so, when?

After I answer these questions to my satisfaction, I’ll decide whether or not to pursue a Barksdale production. Right now, I can only say that the show was GREAT on Broadway. It spoke to me. I’d love to be involved in some way with a future production.

More coming soon about the other shows we saw. Till then, see you at the theatre!

--Bruce Miller

Photo note: In the show photos from [title of show], Hunter Bell (author of the book, actor playing the character "Hunter") is in the green shirt; Jeff Bowen (composer and lyricist, actor playing the character "Jeff") is in the navy or purple polo shirt, with a rolled up long-sleeved t-shirt underneath; Heidi Blickenstaff (actress playing "Heidi") has the long blond hair; Susan Blackwell (actress playing "Susan") has the pulled back dark hair.

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