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Blame Bob Mackie

New York City, not much knitty.

I went to New York, and though I certainly knit up a storm in my hotel room (and a bit in the various theatre—my colleague Lisa is going to end up with a scarf, half of which sat through all the shows below), unlike May's trip there was no knitting (or crochet) to speak of in the shows I saw. None of the characters proudly waltzed around with giant shawls, or Hogwarts' scarves, or traditional Scandinavian sweaters. Nope, it was all glitter and sequins, or just plain woven cloth.

And my schedule was so rushed that I didn't get a chance to shop either (my one free day, Thursday, was American Thanksgiving, and Everything Was Closed, sigh).

So I'm including my quick reviews of the shows I saw (it's a tradition now), but there will be no mention of knitting again until after the reviews, where I have my regular summary of how far I've got to in my various projects. Sorry! Blame the costume designers. Blame Bob Mackie!

The Prom: I enjoyed it (perhaps more than expected) though it's by no means perfect. Enjoyed the fine cast of hams (Beth Leavel, Angie Schworer, Brooks Ashmanskas, Christopher Sieber), but have some quibbles:

  • a plot point concerning a former spouse and a Hamptons' home defied logic, and it would have been better if it ran to its logical conclusion

  • the notion that a Broadway show will fail because its stars are difficult divas is plainly untrue. Not getting cast because of difficult behaviour, sure, but shows don't close because of unli kable stars.

  • I am irked every time I see people presuming that simply uploading something to Social Media will ensure it goes viral

I wouldn't rush to see it, but if you want to, go for it! Especially if you're one of the misanthropes who think Evan Hansen should be punished for trying to cheer up a grieving family--in this show, the protagonists are cheerfully venal from the outset and own that they're in it for themselves and the expectant publicity. It's better than Mean Girls IMO if you have to pick just one.

The Waverly Gallery was thoroughly enjoyable, alternately hilarious and touching, with an exceptionally fine cast of actual stars (Lucas Hedges, Michael Cera, Joan Allen, and Elaine May!) I have virtually nothing negative to drum up for this one, and I'm speaking as someone who pretty-much flat-out hated Manchester-by-the-Sea so it's not like everything the author (Kenneth Longergan) touches turns to gold for me. Elaine May is pitch perfect; it would be worth seeing on the strength of her alone--and she's definitely not alone.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular: only thing open on Thanksgiving, so I went again. I learned that it's essentially the same show from season to season, so, while fun, I won't need to go back a third time.

The Cher Show was terrific from start to finish, my favourite show of the season so far (very unexpectedly so). The staging felt fresh and lively, the conceit of 3 Chers worked perfectly, the creators had the good sense to ensure Bob Mackie did the costumes, I've never quite warmed to Stephanie Block before but she has completely won me over here (as Rebecca Luker finally did in The Music Man), and the songs (save for an uncomfortable "Half-Breed" worked very well in context, especially a second act sequence set to "The Beat Goes On."

This was just a joy to watch, and I would have whooshed right back to the theatre for a second helping if not for all my slots being booked with other, less-fun shows. This is a bazillion times better than On Your Feet, different in tone (but more enjoyable, for me), than Beautiful, and probably most similar (but still so very different) to Jersey Boys. I was surprised by how moving it was--the evident love and respect she had for Sonny, despite everything, was unexpectedly touching, and I welled up several times. I am, of course, a Cher fan--but not a crazed superfan--which may have helped (at least, I was aware of most of the plot points)--but then again, surprise is also nice, and others might have had more of that.

Network has the expected what-will-they-think-of-next British Theatre staging, and it works very well. At two hours without an intermission it felt like it would have been just that much better at 90 minutes ... several characters get fired, re-hired, fired, re-hired, and there's a near constant "stop filming Howard", "keep filming Howard", "stop filming Howard", "keep filming Howard" etc. that gets a bit wearying. Despite it all, very much a thumbs' up, with great performances all around (Bryan Cranston, Tony Goldwyn)--save for Tatiana Maslany, who I ordinarily really like, as she seemingly delivered volume rather than characterization--perhaps the director told her she should have no feelings, but she just comes across like she's reading lines aloud (at least the night I was there).

Pretty Woman was execrable (I've never seen the film), with aggressively bland and epid lyrics. The first song is an unwitty celebration of how great the setting is ("Welcome to Hollywood"), the kind of trope that was tired in the 1970s. In the second song, a woman who seems quite chipper in the dialogue scenes unexpectedly laments how terrible the setting is ("Anywhere But Here") ... I thought about Moana and how perfect the image is of a girl on a beach, unable to see past the horizon line, and longing for more: "See the line where the sky meets the sea, it calls me" ... so specific a detail, so perfect, but that's Lin-Manuel Miranda, and sadly he wasn't the lyricist here.

In our third song, which maybe will explicate why a hot rich single guy with zero kinks is even considering being with a street hooker, we get "There's something about that girl ... I don't know what it is, but there's something about this girl" ... I mean, yikes, even the creative team doesn't know why this is happening. By then I stopped keeping track of how bad each song was (they all had melodies and were sung with gusto at least by Samantha Barks and Andy Karl), I started noticing that the sets and costumes were kind of dull, and at 50 minutes in got up and went to the exhibition of Children's Art at the Society of Illustrator's gallery in mid-town East, where I enjoyed the rest of the show much more by virtue of not being there for it.

Head over Heels will admittedly not be everyone's cup-of-tea, but I had a terrific time. I think if, when you hear "it's the Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, the prose romance by Sir Philip Sidney, set to music from the Go-Gos, with Spencer Liff choreography," you think "that sounds awesome!" well then it will be awesome. If instead you scratch your head and worry it'll be too campy, you should probably not come. I had a hoot and a half, and that's half a hoot more than The Prom and a whole hoot more than Network. Evidently they made most of their decisions with the policy of "how can we make this moment the most fun" and worked wonderfully. Again, for me. The cast was great, including trooper Rachel York and relative newcomer Bonnie Milligan.

P.S. I liked Xanadu ... if you thought Xanadu was dreck and A Catered Affair deserved a Tony, stay far, far away.

King Kong was interesting because it got the hard parts right (the giant Kong puppet, the settings of New York, the ship, the island), and the easy parts wrong (the songs). Aside from the opening chant (not really a song, as chanting's not singing) I can't remember a single musical moment. It sounds like the score was written by a frenchman with not a great grasp of the Broadway idiom, and as far as I can tell that's exactly who wrote it. There are some aggressively-changed plot points / character traits that I don't think were quite as necessary to make the show work for a contemporary audience. And this show, unlike any of the movies, did make me stop and ponder how they got the ape from the boat to the theatre and wouldn't the street have been lined with lookie-loos, spoiling the surprise? (My mind must have wandered during a sung moment). But I loved the use of scenic projections and Kong himself.

The show would have benefited from more characters (something I almost never say) as the only people with any part to speak of are Ann the reluctant ingenue, Carl the intrepid filmmaker, and they're the only two who get songs (Kong doesn't sing), and what (in any other show) would be a Very Minor Part, the tiny role of Lumpy aka Len. There are few lines for a Captain, for a waiter, some of the press, etc., but otherwise it's 2.5 speaking parts in this huge musical, it's out of balance. No one we care about gets stomped by the ape, and it's not scary. A fail, from my perspective, but an interesting fail.

On the Needles (and actively being worked on):

  • Sophie's Universe crochet project #2 (Part 4: Round 32)

  • Sophie's Universe crochet project #1 (Part 14: Round 101, so so close to finishing the project as originally patterned)

  • Sea Grass Scarf by Janina Kallio (I'm in part 6, third set of stripes).

  • A Dream of Steam and Brass (it's a scarf/kerchief/shawlette--I'm making it bigger than patterned--for a colleague. I'm basically finished it as written, but I'm carrying on in pattern for as far as a second ball will take me).

  • Persian Dreams Blanket (round 15 of Hexagon 5)

  • a linen dishcloth, Eloominator's Diagonal Knit dishcloth by Jana Trent. I'm in the decrease section!

  • GGN Norwegian Ski Sweater (finished the torso, currently well above the cuffs of Arms One and Two (I'm knitting both at once--but on separate needles, I'm not that clever yet))

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