Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Misfortune Cookies: Fantastic Four & Finally Finale

To call the four shows I saw in New York all "fantastic" would be a lie. But for blog titles, I gotta bend the truth for something clever. And yet, is it clever if it isn't true? This final entry of our New York getaway could easily be called "Super Panda Awesome Time" which is, you have to admit, pretty damn clever, but not really related to the subject at hand. We did not meet any pandas on this trip; and certainly none that were anything spectacular or super-powered. Though we did have a "time" that was indeed awesome, at times, so maybe there is some truth to it. But "Fantastic Four" shall stick because this entry is mainly about the four shows I saw, two being fantastic.

The very first show Timotei, Prisoner Tribbiani, and I saw was Spamalot. Here is a show that had been sold out the past two times I'd gone to New York and finally it was offered at a heavily discounted price. With the original all-star cast gone, there wasn't much hype in seeing it, but I wanted to see what all the fuss had been about. Now I had never seen the original Monty Python movie Spamalot, but I had seen Mr. Bean in a trailer for his new sequel which I beg everyone to avoid like the plague. All I knew was that it was an off-the-wall spoof on Camelotian movies.

So what's the verdict? I laughed more than a couple of times, but it didn't seem to gel well as a complete show. I've never seen a show shrug off an ending this much since "Who cares who the father is! You are all my fathers to me!" F- THAT! But here, throwing together a bunch of random end moments to close the show works in a way since the show never takes itself seriously. I say that I probably would have liked it better if I had known the movie, but in return, seeing the stage show does not make me long to watch the movie. It just made me shrug my shoulders.

The second show Timotei and I watched was Legally Blonde: The Musical. This show I was actually looking forward to. Last year, I was a HUGE fan of The Wedding Singer musical, so I had high hopes for Legally Blonde, considering I very much, though I'd never admit, like the movie.

So what's the verdict? Meh. This one was a huge disappointment. First the positives: the show is filled with hot leggy sorority girlish women. Humina! They have this thing they do like Muses where Elle can talk to them and only she can see them. It's really quite dumb (especially when the Stiffler's Mom character randomly sees them too during a "Bend and Snap" number that SHOULD HAVE BEEN FUN). Oh I'm sorry, I was supposed to be focusing on the positives. Well, there was this really hot asian mixed muse girl.

Okay, to the bad. The music sucks. It begins with a song called "OMG You Guys!" which... I'm not complaining about. That opening number is really great, fun, catchy. But after that, things get dumbed down for the 12 year old set. The lyrics start to get really lame and bland and the songs random and ridiculous. And I always come down hard about this point, but one of the greatest moments of the movie is when Elle tells her ex "Remember that hot, steamy night we spent in [wherever]? This is SO MUCH BETTER THAN THAT!" Yet in the show, that moment gets lost and buried in a song and I know I'm being nitpicky, but really, I think the show in general feels lost. Everything about it is just forgettable. There is one thing I enjoyed. And this should have appeared in the positives paragraph above, but anyway... they used real dogs! That was cool.

I understand that I'm definitely not the demographic that this show appeals to. This show is just too sugary, pink, sweet, girly. I'm sure if you're a Lizzie Maguire loving girl, you'd love this show. But to me, big fat meh.

The third show that I saw alone (and later saw again with Prisoner Tribbiani, Timotei, and Ellvin Kelvin) was Spring Awakening, the show you've probably not heard much about. I had heard nothing prior to the day we saw Legally Blonde when I overheard a couple of girls talking about wanting to see it. Then I read what I could about it, including a review posted outside the theater it was playing at. Basically, it was to be the next RENT in that it had a rock score and a bunch of unknown actors/actresses.

So what's the verdict? Considering I saw it twice and dragged along three others to see it, it's pretty safe to say that I agreed with the reviews. After my first viewing, I was simply amazed at what I had seen. Firstly, the music rocked. In fact, I still listen to the soundtrack nonstop and plan on singing the duet "Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind" with Amazing Grace at a Karaoke bar some day. Secondly, it pushes the envelope (or perhaps just mine) in what it displays during the show. I don't want to spoil nothin', but it was pretty shocking. There are no sets; just a single stage, but it's amazing in its presentation. Bleachers are set up on stage right and left that seat some of the audience. The actors also sit in the bleachers when not needed on stage. But during various songs, they stand and sing along and it's really amazing to watch; the movement fills the stage simplistically, but brilliantly. And the lighting occurs all around the theater. I feel it's an amazing experience.

But my compadres did not share my same enthusiasm, mainly due to the story. The show is based on a very controversial book written in the way-back-when's and had been banned by various institutes and governments. It's basically the story of German kids learning about the opposite sexes in an ultra-conservative society. Yes, the story could have been stronger. It certainly isn't as likable as RENT's story about living life in the present.

In fact, I would agree that the story leaves much to be desired. It's hard to follow at times and ends abruptly. But the presentation is what sells this show. And the songs! The songs are tremendous. Most of them could be hits on the radio.

Okay, I think I've gushed enough about that one.

The last show we (The Routes Family and Prisoner Tribbiani) saw was the only one we bought tickets in advance for - Mary Poppins. Since I was a kid, I always thought Mary Poppins would make a killer live show. And you know what? It exceeded my childhood expectations. Now, the music isn't all that great. You've got most of the songs from the original movie and a few new ones that are pretty average. But it's the show itself that's the thing. This one is a true-to-form spectacle. Each scene brings about a cool special stage effect; the enormous Banks' mansion is impressive on its own. This show flows with imagination. It's a really sharp contrast from the abomination that was last year's Tarzan. It was weird thinking that you pay the same price for these shows; with Mary Poppins you get amazing special effects, pyrotechnics, impressive sets; with Tarzan you get green silly string on the walls and ape suits on rubber bands.

And here, you get a really engrossing story to boot! It's not just the movie on stage. The musical is based more on the books and feels more cohesive than the actual movie (which I can NEVER stay awake through). Mary Poppins is the best Disney on Stage show out there (even better than The Lion King!) Just the final image of the show alone is worth the price of admission.

So those are the shows we saw. I may have bored you with overlong critiques, but I hope I kept it interesting. One of the best happenings on the trip was going drinking with two actresses from the cast of Mary Poppins. Prisoner Tribbiani had worked with one of them in a show and she hooked us up with upgraded kick ass seats. So we bought her a drink at a bar and her friend joined and we just had the greatest time chatting.

What else to say? Amazing Grace invited us to her home on Long Island for dinner, which was very nice of her. We got to meet her friendly chows.

The flight back returned to the hell we faced at the start of our trip. A storm were'a brewin' on the day of our flight and JetBlue pulled away from the gate on time, but told us we would be up to 45 minutes late to take off. There we sat on the plane at the front of the Take-Off queue. Half an hour into the wait, we started to move, people sighed with relief, and suddenly, we spun around and moved to the end of the goddamn line! Those jackasses. But we made up time in the air and got back just fine. Of course, going into work the next day completely sucked.

So that's it! New York in a candy-coated nutshell. A simple six-parter with no longwinded explanation of magical wands in sight. I hope you enjoyed reading this torturous (with shining spots of glory) trip as much as I enjoyed postponing writing it. And hopefully my vacations in the future won't be as misfortunate or cookie-based.

The End.