New York trip: Theater

The only good reason to wake up at 3:30 in the morning to catch an airplane is to get to New York as early as you can and see as many shows as possible.

In the Heights

This show is the reason I took this trip. Its closing date was announced and I bought my ticket. It was that simple. I haven’t loved this show from its beginning, but from my first listen, I’ve loved it big. Learning that Lin-Manuel Miranda and Chris Jackson were returning to close the show was a big fat cherry on the top of my already massive excitement. Seeing this show on its closing weekend was everything I hoped it would be and more. What can you say about a show you see that you already love so much? The tears ran down my face basically from curtain to curtain. Of course the aforementioned performers were standouts for me, along with Andrea Burns, whom I was thrilled to see as Daniela, and the explosively talented Priscilla Lopez, who has the best posture I’ve ever seen and threw it down like nobody’s business. As did the actress who played Abuela Claudia, who has been with the show forever and was amazing. Of course it would have been great to see the original Nina and Vanessa, but they’re off becoming the stars they’re meant to be. (My sadness at its closing was lessened by this joyous expression of how it will live on. And also by this lovely tribute.) Before the show, I told my friends — who have seen many-a Broadway show in their day — that this show is not some razzle dazzle theatrical spectacle. It’s just a story about family and friendship and love and heart and home, the very best kind of story. I will love it forever.

Billy Elliot

I fell in love with this film back in 2001, and it’s long been one of my favorites, and I’ve wanted to see the musical for more than two years. Unlike In the Heights, this one did not quite live up to my sky-high expectations. I think part of it was my seat … center orchestra but in the second to last row, so I was under the overhanging balcony, which made the whole experience a bit claustrophobic. I think I was also so emotionally drained from my matinee that I couldn’t give my full heart to this show. I’m definitely glad that I saw it, and the kid who played Billy was an extraordinary dancer and that alone made it worth it. At the end of the day, though, I kind of wanted to go home and watch the movie. And again, that I wasn’t carried off by this show like I thought I might be is probably due to how I spent the afternoon. Which was seeing Next to Normal.

Next to Normal

I went to see this show for one reason, and that reason was Marin Mazzie. It had been more than ten years since I first saw her on stage, and I didn’t know much about this show other than knowing that it had lots of critical acclaim and that the original lead won the Tony and that it was about a crazy lady. I didn’t know that it had won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. I didn’t know that it would transport me to another plane of reality. Seriously though. I seriously had a Marin Mazzie-induced out-of-body experience while watching this show, in the best possible way. Not knowing what would happen next made every word and note of every song a revelation. Seeing this force of nature play this role opposite her real life husband (whose voice was also beautiful) was pretty amazing. Marin Mazzie was basically bawling her eyes out through the whole show, and so was I, and so was most of the theater. There would be these still, quiet moments when all you could hear was the audience weeping. It was so gripping, affecting, terrible, and beautiful. I walked out of the theater into the snowy dusk and almost couldn’t see straight, that’s how swept away I was. It really embodied the whole agony and ecstasy of theater in the most fundamental way for me. With In the Heights, my tears were “oh my God I love this show I can’t believe it’s closing and that I’m finally here” tears, but with this show, they were “oh my God Marin Mazzie is otherwordly, this is devastating and beautiful, oh my God, oh my God, pain, darkness, life, light” tears. Both were powerful experiences that can’t really be compared, I guess. All I can say is that I’m so glad I saw this show and that I might never be the same.

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One Response to New York trip: Theater

  1. Lisa Watson says:

    I know I am crazy late with this comment, but I am so glad I finally found someone who agrees with me about Billy Elliot! Oh, I loved that movie so much. That final scene at the end where he leaps across the stage gives me goosebumps every time I see it. But the play left me wanting and I was surprised by that. I fully expected to love it and I didn’t.

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