Tuesday, October 2, 2012

NYC and Chaplin the Musical!

I had the opportunity to see another brand new Broadway production in previews!  This time around we saw Chaplin the Musical!

My girl friend and I took a bus trip into Manhattan.  Our showtime was at 2pm and our bus arrived at 10:30am.  That gave us two and a half hours to run a muck in Times Square.  First off we stopped for some awesome pizza at Famiglia's.  We had pizza a breakfast and it was delicious!

Someone needs to fill a pool with these
guys so I can swim in it.  Just like the lady in
Patch Adams with her noodle pool.
We then took a very long stroll through Times Square's Toys R Us.  I have been in this store hundreds of times but it was so much better being their with my gal pal who is just as silly as I am.  It effort to not dive into the bin of plush Nerds or buy the ridiculously huge package of Twizzlers.  I love Twizzlers but the normal size bag makes me a little ill if I eat it in one sitting and no I can not keep myself from eating it in one sitting.  This big bag would have me in a sugar coma in no time.  It would be a happy coma though.  We had fun toying with Lego Hulk and smacking each other with foam swords.  This was more a reenactment from "What to Expect When Your Expecting" then anything else (they played the movie on the bus and I want to rent it to finish it).

My genius picture of the day.
Hulk smash Legos!
I can't even keep a silly face straight.

One of several color walls.  Yummy
After we took as much time as possible in Toys R Us, I took her to Hershey's and the M&M store.  She kept asking if they charge admission which I find hilarious.  I don't really like the Hershey store.  It's cute, but to me it's a chocolate shop stocking exactly what I can find at home with a jacked up price.  I also don't really like chocolate.  However, I do like that they give you a piece of chocolate when you walk in.  It's a nice touch.  We then went into the M&M store which of course was fairly packed (thankfully it was early) and much more what I find a unique tourist store.  Where else can you pick out any color M&M that you want?  Not to mention the machine that personalizes them right there, no shipping needed.  Of course the merchandise is cute and overwhelming.  They had those cute monkeys with the velcro hands, but I am very disappointed that the feet did not velcro together as well.  We both had huge art geek moments in the M&M store when we nailed all of the classic art inspired T-Shirts: Picasso, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, and Warhol.  My friend brought up Pollack and there is no way it was Pollack.  It's nice having someone around that can talk classic art.  We went up the escalator drooling over different art exhibits.  She told me she wants to see a Picasso exhibit and I told I did see one but I was too young to appreciate it.  Who's my favorite classic artist?  Degas by a landslide.  I was lucky enough to be in Philadelphia years ago when a Degas exhibit was going on.  For the first and only time in my life I understood what is meant when they say art can not be reproduced to it's full beauty.  The paintings looked some much more vibrant and detailed then any reproduced image, but enough about art.

We left the M&M store with more then enough time to get to the theater on 47th (M&M is on 48th).  We waited outside for a little bit before the ushers seated us.  Our seats were all the way stage left 5 rows from the STAGE!  I knew we were in orchestra, but wow!  I have always had a fear of being so close to the stage.  I thought the music would be over powering.  I also usually like front mezzanine or balcony.  I like to see the WHOLE stage without working my head too hard.  I also find the seating in center orchestra to be difficult for a short person.  The seats are not staggered nor are they stadium seating.  I usually wind up with the tall person directly in front of me.  I found being stage left was much easier for me to see.  I did not have a tall person in front of me but because you're viewing sideways I could see through the shoulders of those in front of me regardless.

Word to the wise for tourists:  When visiting places like Toys R Us, M&M, Hershey, The Disney Store, etc in Times Square or any other highly tourist area go in the MORNING or risk feeling packed in like a herd of lost cattle.  I am not sure about night time hours but in my experience 2 through dinnertime in the worst time of day for tourist attractions.  My favorite time of day in NYC is probably 8-11am in the morning because it's quiet. There is nothing like strolling down Broadway at 8am with a cup of Steamed Apple Cider and feeling the calm before the storm.

So Chaplin the Musical!  I have been super excited about this show since I heard one of my aerial instructors (and friend) had been training the lead on tight rope.  I know he is top notch and it has been his dream to work on a Broadway production so I knew this was going to be a good show.


It is a good show!

The shows I saw this year alone in order are: Spider-Man, Ghost, Nice Work, and now Chaplin.  In recent years and up until seeing Ghost I was hating everything I saw on Broadway.  I was starting to think I had become too old for new Broadway as everything was starting to look unfocused and action oriented.  What else can we make our actors do?  As for Spider-Man the Musical tragedy, P!nk did better wire work in ONE performance at the iHeart Music Festival.  Why?  Because even though I thought it was cheesy, she's actually studied aerials.  I really didn't like that show.  It killed me a little to not like it.  I wanted to.  I searched and searched for a reason to like it and found none.  Ho hum.  So where Spider-Man was all about "action" (and nothing else), Ghost was a wonderful story and about paranormal effects (amazingly done), Nice Work was a classic (all be it bland) comedy set to Gershwin, Chaplin was something completely different and exactly what I had been longing for in a stage show.

Chaplin was a return to classic theater.  It has a great story, great music, and dance numbers with a touch of circus elements.  The show had absolutely NO special effects and no flying over the audience (aka: Spider-Man, Mary Poppins, Wicked, Tarzan, etc).

One thing that struck me was the very simple set design.  I keep saying how so much can be done with a stage set without a bunch of large set changes.  For the most part the set changed simply by a rolled out couch, chair, and desk to simulate an office or a pull down screen and several rows of chairs for a theater both using the same studio back drop.  For the most part that back drop is the set.  It reminded me of the set design the Broadway's Tommy back in 1993 (ahhh, I am getting up there).  As far as simple sets go, without a doubt the best simple set design would be Chicago.  The orchestra is on the stage in a riser fashion and the story takes place around them.  No fancy backdrops.  No flashy moving buildings.  Just a stage, an orchestra and actors with some props.

The story is the story of Charlie Chaplin.  I love classic films (huge Marilyn Monroe fan here).  I have never seen a Chaplin film (though I might now).  Nor did I know much about him.  His story is very interesting.  It's a rags to riches story in Act I and in Act II its about how riches and Hollywood Land (as it was back then) destroyed him as a man and finally realizing that regardless 30 years later America still loved him.  I almost cried at the end.

Act I as you can imagine is full of entertainment, excitement, and crazy dance numbers.  I even spotted cyr wheels being rolled across the stage and used for hoops the ladies could tumble through.  A few tightrope acts and even in the circus I do not see those often.  In fact the only time I have seen tight rope in person is the low training rope/wire at our Brooklyn location and in The Dextre Tripp Show at the New York Renaissance Faire.  My only quip was that Chaplin was in a harness on the tightrope.  I know it still takes a lot of balance, strength, and training to be able to tightrope even with a harness and of course it's to keep the actor safe since there is no crash mat, but in a way (as a aerialist) it seems like cheating a little.  It's why I couldn't say this was also a harness free show.

Act II is much more somber and dramatic.  It becomes more documentary as the tougher parts of Chaplin's life are played through.  But it has a spectacular ending that almost gave me some tears.  I only wish it had an ending dance number (aka: Billy Elliot).  It almost looked like it did as the actors started dancing but then the curtain went down.  In Billy Elliot the ending happens and a huge dance number erupts.  I do think Chaplin needs a final dance number since the second act is so dramatic.  Even though it ends on a happy note a dance fabulous dance number would add to it.

One of the things that I have also noticed in newer shows is the hidden (or absent) pit orchestra.  It's the same in this show.  The orchestra is under the front stage.  I understand why this is done.  More floor space for the show and a lower likelihood of slipping off the stage and onto a violinist.  I just can't fathom being under there.  I am not sure if it had to do with our close seats and maybe never being up close I never noticed but during the bows the conductor came out and bowed.  I liked that touch.

My favorite number was The Charlie Chaplin Look-a-Like contest.  A good number of cast members (men and women) all dressed as Charlie doing hat tricks.  It was hard to tell who the real Charlie was but there was one dead giveaway, the pants.  Charlies pants are too large for him and held up with suspenders causing a droop in the front.

Oh and when he finds his character Charlie Chaplin, it is one of the most adorable scenes in the show as he is just having fun with random props.  I also enjoyed the scene where he is studying Hitler and comments on how Hitler stole his mustache.

The show is actually so new that I can not find a soundtrack listing online.  I do not believe they were selling a soundtrack at the theater yet either.  Even Ghost did not have a Broadway recording yet.  The copy I bought is from the UK production (which I did not know at the time of purchase).  Chaplin has not had a UK production, it's brand spanking new.  My favorite song is one that goes something like this "what'cha gonna do when it all falls down."  It's sung by the "villain" of the story.

Have I babbled about this show enough?  I really enjoyed it.  It's a musical drama, maybe that's why I love Le Mis so much.

And lastly, after the show I got to go to a street fair (a first for me) and try corn cakes (I love me some corn) before heading off to a Cosplay Nation gathering where I got to me a few fellow cosplayers and members of the group for the very first time.  In the end, it was a very successful day.


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