The massive catch-up post

So... we suck. Michelle and I apologize for not updating in for-freaking-ever. College was being totally crazy-cakes. Who knew being a nursing major was so much work? I did. Who thought adding a business minor to a communications major would be a good idea? Michelle did. Who spent the last week and a half studying until our eyes were threatening to fall out of our heads? We both did.

But yeah... the semester is over, we are home for break, and it's time to get crackin' on this blogging business again. Things we've seen since our last post that we haven't covered yet: The Addams FamilyWomen on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Avenue Q, [Title of Show], Next to Normal (shocking, we know), and The Scottsboro Boys. Phew. [Title of Show] and The Scottsboro Boys need their own blog posts to adequately talk about their awesomeness, and we've been blogging about Next to Normal so much, people probably think we get paid every time we do (unfortunately, we don't, but it would be totally awesome if we did.) This post is going to cover The Addams Family, Avenue Q, and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, in that order. Get ready.
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Okay, so, The Addams Family. Michelle and I were lucky enough to get free tickets after a friend of ours won a contest on Twitter. Sweet! We were super excited to see this production because, well... let's take a look at the cast, shall we? Nathan Lane, Bebe Neuwirth, Carolee Carmello, Terrence Mann, Jackie Hoffman, Wesley Taylor, and Krysta Rodriguez. It's like a smorgasbord of awesomeness and talent. And the cast did not disappoint. It was definitely the strongest part of the show. Nathan Lane is the consummate song and dance man, and he and Bebe Neuwirth both got huge applause at their entrances. Mr. Lane's Gomez was charming and fun, even if Mr. Lane did at times struggle with his suave, Latin accent. Ms. Neuwirth, who is perhaps best known for her role as Lilith on the hit sitcom Cheers but is best known to me for her hysterical Musical Madlibs rendition of "All That Jazz" (which can be found here), was fantastic. Her comedic timing and dry delivery made her Morticia a sarcastic delight. Jackie Hoffman was hysterical as the senile Grandma (her ad-lib about Charlie Sheen during the "Full Disclosure" number was amazing). Kevin Chamberlin was wonderful as the crazy Uncle Fester. His asides to the audience, playing with the fourth wall, were some of the funniest moments in the show. Carolee Carmello and Terrence Mann were EPIC in their roles as Alice and Mal Beineke, respectively. Both of their voices are so distinct and classic that hearing them sing together was just incredible. It gave me chills. Wesley Taylor was great as Lucas Beineke in what I thought was an underused role.

But for me, the best part of the show was Krysta Rodriguez as Wednesday Addams. That girl is a star. Of all the songs in the show, "Pulled" and "Crazier Than You" were the most memorable for me, and I think a large part of that was due to Ms. Rodriguez's performance. Her vocals are fantastic. She belts without sounding like she's straining, and her physical performance complements her voice perfectly. Her performance was youthful, teen-angsty without being over-the-top, and fun. And overall, I think that's what The Addams Family was - fun. It wasn't perfect - the scenes and plot were choppy, almost like a series of loosely linked sketches rather than a coherent piece, there wasn't a lot of character development to speak of, and some of it was downright cheesy. Above all that, though, it was just a fun two and a half hours of theater. Coming from a girl who loves crying her eyes out over a piece of theater, it was a nice change of pace to be able to walk out of a show humming a tune and feeling entertained. In that respect, The Addams Family was very successful.
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Avenue Q has been on our must-see list for a while. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical back in 2004 and enjoyed a lengthy Broadway run before relocating to New World Stages and continuing Off-Broadway. New World Stages is composed of a couple of small theaters that are underground, and so it runs a few shows simultaneously. The rush seats for Avenue Q were in the front row of an already intimately small theater, so we were practically three feet from the stage for the entire performance, which allowed us to see the puppetry work from up-close. It was incredible. The actors are incredibly talented. Not only do they perform puppetry, often playing the roles of multiple puppets at the same time and throughout the show, but they also sing and act and have the best facial expressions to accompany their puppets. The entire cast was fantastic, but Howie Michael Smith, Sarah Stiles, and Cullen R. Titmas were particularly amazing in both their puppetry skills and singing abilities. The score is raunchy, to be sure (really, is there any other show out there that's so blatantly about sex and porn?), but it's also hysterical and catchy. Its "immaturity" works because it's a show about raunchy puppets. It's meant to be fun and a little outrageous, and it definitely delivered.
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Last but not least, we saw Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Much like The Addams Family, Michelle and I were incredibly excited to see the show because of its star-studded cast. Months before the show even opened, when it's cast was first announced, we decided that we just had to see it. I mean, when would we next be able to see a show with Sherie Rene Scott, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Mary Beth Piel, Danny Burstein, Laura Benanti, and that diva of all Divas, Patti LuPone? By the time it began previews, we'd read that the show was still working out some kinks. Then the Internet message boards were flooded with what a mess the show was, how it didn't make sense, how there was so much going on you didn't know where to look. Still, for every negative review, there was also a positive one, and so Michelle and I went into the theater with open minds, not knowing what to expect but hoping to be entertained nonetheless.

The show was... a bit chaotic, to say the least. There was certainly a lot going on, and for the first few minutes  of the show, I'll freely admit that I didn't know where to look or what to pay attention to. Having not seen the Pedro Almodovar film on which the show is based, I honestly had no idea what the show was about or what to expect. The show was frenetic, with constant action and multiple plots and subplots being juggled simultaneously. It seemed almost to have a stream-of-consciousness feel about it, as if someone is telling you a story and keeps jumping from point to point and you're left trying to form a coherent picture of events. So, in that spirit, I present my very own stream-of-consciousness review of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown:

Oh look a taxi cab! Danny Burstein! You were so awesome in South Pacific, but I don't know how I feel about you as a blonde. There are so many people on stage... oh look, there's Sherie Rene Scott! I miss Everyday Rapture, but she's fabulous. Oh my goodness, is that Laura Benanti dancing in the wings? It is! But why can I see the wings so easily? Oh, it's because all these massive set pieces have to be able to get on and off stage. Hi, stage crew. Why can I see you? Why are you nonchalantly walking around on stage? Okay, Sherie's singing and her voice is so pretty. So is Brian Stokes Mitchell's disembodied voice. Oh wait, there he is. Wow, his character's kind of a douche. Sing Sherie, sing! Holy shit that's Patti LuPone! On stage. Like twenty feet away. Dear Lord, she's intimidating. Now she's looking over here, like right at me! Am I doing something inappropriate? I don't want to get LuPwned. Phew, she's looking somewhere else now. Tee-hee, it's Justin Guarini. God, that movie he was in was such a catastrophe, but it sounds like he can actually sing. Hahaha Laura Benanti looks hilarious running around in those ridiculous shoes.  She is so awesome. I can't even hear all the words to the song she's singing so fast... how does she not mess up? And so Candela is dating a terrorist, but what does that have to do with Pepa's relationship problems? Whatever, she's a goddess. Love her. Wait... why is Sherie singing next to a bed that's ON FIRE?! Surely that cannot be good for the vocal cords. And why is the damn thing on fire in the first place? I'm so confused. And now Brian Stokes Mitchell and Justin Guarini are singing about microphones. Such pretty voices, but this song is annoying. Not all women are fooled by a pretty voice speaking into a microphone. I'm kind of offended. But wait... what was the point of this song again? Whatever. Laura Benanti is awesome. Why are these women hanging from ropes? Laura Benanti is awesome. Isn't this dangerous? Who lets Patti LuPone swing from this rubber thing over the stage? Laura Benanti is --- INTERMISSION.


Okay, process what just happened. So...much...going on. I have no idea. Pepa is heartbroken and destroyed her answering machine, and is also pregnant. Candela is dating a terrorist. Lucia is suing Ivan, but for what I'm not sure. And Carlos is marrying some bitchy girl that he doesn't even seem to love. And the Taxi Driver is just kind of observing it all and Greek-chorusing the show. Okay, Act II, GO. Damn, Sherie Rene Scott can sing. You know who else can sing? Laura Benanti. Can she just come back and entertain us with her awesomeness for another hour? Brian Stokes Mitchell, you have a pretty voice, but your character is a tool. Why are there so many people on stage? Who are this girl and this guy on the motorcycle and why are they important? Are they important? Oh look, Laura Benanti! She's fierce. Haha, Danny Burstein just sang a line about "feeling like you missed something in the plot." He's got that right... what is going on? Whatever, Laura Benanti is still fantastic. Damn, Patti LuPone is freaking intimidating. Insanely talented, but intimidating as shit. So she's suing Ivan to get years of her life back? Metaphorical, but whatevs. I really like this song, but why did it just end without a big finish. It just kind of trailed off... bummer. Laura Benanti. At least the plot is making more sense this act. Laura Benanti. The farce aspect is actually pretty entertaining. Laura Benanti. Gazpacho can be dangerous. Laura Benanti. Laura Benanti. Laura Benanti taking her clothes off and doing a "sexy dance" is hysterical. Guns? Laura Benanti. Mary Beth Piel is awesome, but her character is pretty superfluous and unnecessary. Laura Benanti. Sherie Rene Scott. Laura Benanti.


And that, dear readers, is the hot mess that is Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. It had potential and a freaking amazing cast, but there was just too much going on, and it resulted in an often incoherent story. There were too many set pieces and too many characters, which resulted in some serious talent (like Mary Beth Piel and de'Adre Aziza) to be wasted. There also wasn't all that much character development - I didn't feel all that invested in the outcome. The songs were good if not forgettable, with "Model Behavior" being the highlight for me. Basically, Laura Benanti stole the damn show with her incredible voice and great comedic timing, and her awesomeness was almost enough to redeem a whole lot of "WTF?" moments. Almost, but not enough, though it wasn't for a lack of trying. She gave 130% to her performance and made any time Candela was on stage the best part of the show. Incidentally, she's also a total sweetheart at the stage door, thanking us for coming and saying how "great it is to see young people at the theater. It makes me think it's not dying out." Between that, her performance, and her incredible "It Gets Better" video for The Trevor Project, it may be safe to say that I have a new Broadway idol. Despite the show's many problems, it was entertaining, and you could tell the cast was having a blast performing the material and is proud of the product they're producing, which I guess makes critical reception a moot point. If these people are having fun doing what they love, I'm not going to stop them.

P.S. - Patti LuPone? A one-of-a-kind stage door experience. She just sweeps down the line, signing randomly on your Playbill before getting in her chauffeured car and being driven away. Hilarious.

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