I saw two plays this weekend that I did not get a chance to talk about. The first was Candide at New York City Opera. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but i was biased because my friend Lauren Worsham was playing Cunegonde, the female lead. Lauren and I performed together last September in our Muppet Cabaret. She is a phenomenal soprano and really brought the house down with "I'm Gonna Always Love You" from Muppets Take Manhattan. It was really wonderful seeing her on the NYC Opera stage and her performance was fantastic, she's truly versatile. The rest of the cast was top notch as well. I had never seen Candide before and I was struck by the humor of the lyrics and the greatness of Bernstein's score. Daniel Reichard was a very winning Candide and Richard Kind was a lot of fun in multiple roles, though not as strong a singer as the others. The playbill also offered a really interesting history of the show and how it developed over the years which I thought really gave a great context for this production. Knowing how many changes it's gone through, I'd still say that the plot gets a bit repetitive in Act II. I was kinda done with the story by the time calamity hit them in the New World, but i still enjoyed the music. Also the final speech was staged in a way that no one in the upper levels could see what was happening all. It was odd because 95% of everything else could be seen from anywhere in the house. That aside, it was really a great production and I'm so happy I got to see it.
One other thing of note, the woman who was ushering in my section was a total tyrant. There is a rule that there is absolutely no cell phone use in the house, only out in the lobby. This meant no texting, no checking messages or anything else while sitting in your seat at intermission. Now, I'm totally against texting during a performance, but i don't see the problem with it during intermission. Our usher clearly did, and she shouted at several people to stop using ANY function on the phones while still in the house. She also shined her flashlight in people's faces while yelling at them not to put their feet up on any of the furniture. Again, I support her cause, but her approach was nothing short of hostile, and I think inspired some people toward outright rebellion. When I managed to sneak one text message in during intermission without her noticing, I felt like I had really got away with something. Take that, phone police!
I also got to see Mad Forest, up at Columbia Grad. It's a play about revolution in Romania. Very interesting stuff. It was a directing project of my friend Andrea Ferran. They play itself was structured in an unusual way, where you see a family dealing with it's own personal dramas, right before their repressive government gets overthrown, then at the end of act I there is a series of interweaving monologues that set up what was going on the night of rebellion. Act II reverts back to the lives of the families we met at the beginning of Act I, with added context thanks to the monologues. It was an unconventional approach that resulted in the man sitting two seats down from me (who coincidentally pretended to fall and then grabbed my leg as he was making his way past me to his seat before the start of the show) kept saying "what's going on? what's going on!" throughout the first act. The first act required attention and some good will on the part of the audience, but it paid off in dividends in Act II. I felt like I learned a lot from this production. And aside from being made aware of this bit of history, it was also very-well acted and effectively staged. Good work, Andrea!
Tonight I get to see my friend from High School, Jane Monheit perform at Carnegie Hall. Very excited for that!