Tuesday, December 15, 2009

ASTEP's New York City Christmas at Joe's Pub

Wherever Raul Esparza goes, I go.

That’s why I was at Joe’s Pub last night for New York City Christmas, a holiday concert featuring some big Broadway stars and benefiting Artists Striving To End Poverty. It was the second incarnation of the concert, which was held for the first time last year at the Zipper Factory (why is that place closed??). Due to the success of last year’s concert, ASTEP produced a recording of the songs performed on Sh-K-Boom Records (actress Sherie Rene Scott is a co-founder), and they decided to do it again this year.

It was a well-paced, dimple-ridden evening, with enough belts and laughter to last the entire year. Big names like Chester Gregory, Sierra Boggess, Sherie Rene Scott, and Orfeh filled the room with fantastic renditions of classic Christmas tunes. Lesser-known names like Lindsay Mendez and Tyler Maynard (both who appeared last year) held their own among the marquee fixtures, and looked ebullient. Mendez, who I want to see more of, two years in a row has made one of the most lasting impressions.
The evening was hosted by Harriet Harris (photo embedded, because I feel she’s one of those actors whose face everyone knows, but few people can attach a name to), who has the ability to induce hilarity with any word she says. Referring to cellist Summer Boggess (Sierra’s sister) who was part of the band, “Summer’s on the cello. I just had to find a way to work that in there and say that,” cooed Harris. But I also have to give huge credit to keyboardist Lynne Shankel, who unofficially co-hosted the event. She served as MC last year, and in addition to being wildly charming, she helped organize the concert (along with ASTEP founder Mary-Mitchel Campbell) and is astonishing with how wide her talents stretch. Where can I see more of her? Does it have to be once each December?

And now we come to Mr. Esparza. Last year, he debuted a mid-tempo, Spanish-guitar arrangement of “O Holy Night,” in which he sings the first verse in English and the second in Spanish. It is a searing performance, memorable in every way, and redefines the classic song. For me, he can do no wrong, and the way his performance makes my mom feel—“I want to claw the skin off my face!” You know, in a good way.

Below is the video of his performance from last year’s concert. I chose to enjoy this year’s without the confines of a lens. I hope you’ll understand.



All I can say is I hope this becomes a Christmas tradition, just as TBS’s A Christmas Story marathon and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fuerza Bruta

Going to the theater should always be an “experience.” That’s pretty much the whole point. Bells and whistles aren’t needed to create that experience though. An amazing night of theater could involve two great actors, a riveting script, and no set at all—a bare bones production. That said, some people (admittedly myself) are too quick to write off big-budget or flashy productions. This thought was going through my mind as I attended the visual orgasm that is Fuerza Bruta at the Daryl Roth Theater last night.

The show is flashy. Flashy, glittery, loud, wet, upside down, and in your face (or down your throat, as I experienced with the confetti). Fuerza Bruta (meaning “brute force” in Spanish) is an optical spectacular in the vein of Cirque du Soleil that doesn’t really have a story (unless your imagination is on overdrive, which it should be) and surrounds the audience, forcing them to interact. If the thought of audience participation makes you clench, you have no choice at Fuerza Bruta. Yes, a few audience members do have advanced participation, in that they hop on platforms and groove with the actors, subsequently being smashed over the head with confetti-filled pizza boxes—not everyone has to do that. But in terms of audience participation, every theatergoer must participate in that the group has to be constantly moving, as the “stage” (there really isn’t one) keeps changing shape and direction. Massive (and I mean massive) treadmills, platforms, aluminum foils sheets, and ladders are wheeled out into the performance space. If you choose not to “participate,” then you might find yourself road kill.

Keeping that in mind, it struck me how inappropriate this show could be for someone elderly or disabled. You have to be able to move around easily and not be inhibited by tight spaces. There are. no. seats. at this show—you stand for a full 70 minutes. Furthermore, it could also be inappropriate for someone dressed nicely! I, for one, usually dress for the theater. Unless you have deep, prior knowledge of this show, the only warning you get about the water that’s flung is when you arrive and collect your tickets, as there’s a slip of paper handed to you. (I suppose you’d receive the notice if you had your tickets mailed to you in advance, but I received my tickets at the performance and… here at this blog, we don’t do tickets in advance.) No, Fuerza Bruta is not Splash Mountain, but it’s not exactly the place for a silk tie, either. (Coat check services are available, but for $2, which I think is ridiculous. Besides, you'll need the protection!)

"Fuerza Bruta": The Twittercast

Last night was an official Twitter Night at Fuerza Bruta, and unlike Hugh Jackman and Patti LuPone, the producers encouraged the audience to tweet and take pictures (minus flash) throughout the entire performance. Stage Rush was there, tweeting away like a maniac and stepping on many people's feet. It was a really unique experience to report during a show, but it was a ton of fun and, for me, brought out a completely different and new angle of theatergoing.

In case you missed it, here is my Twittercast from last night. I have not corrected any of the grammar or spelling errors, as they reflect the chaos and rapidity of the scene. (Although let's all take special note of the most awesome typo in tweet #14: "catboat" box. Could that possibly have meant to be "cardboard?)

1. This place is like a club. And $2 coat check? No bueno. Do we have to rush the coat check??
2. Show wasn't started yet, but it's CREEPY in here! I feel like something's gonna fall from the ceiling!
3. My companion, @LizzLovejoy, thinks a bomb is going to go off and that this "show" is just a distraction.
4. "I think we made a wrong turn and walke into a gay club." - @LizzLovejoy
5. Jess: No, Fuerzabruta means "brute strength" in Spanish. Liz: Exactly.
6. Woman next to me is wearing a SARS mask. http://twitpic.com/s1b7r


Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Fela!"'s Missed, Genius Rush Opportunity

Fela! is a wildly unique and outside-the-box-thinking Broadway production. I thought so and so does just about every major theater critic. And with 86 percent of its tickets sold last week, it's a fair hit. But I just read a fantastic gem of an idea New York Magazine delivered in it's final paragraph of their review for Fela! that would have been a ridiculously exciting and original rush concept. Here's the block quote from reviewer Dan Kois:
Given the concert conceit of Fela!, and the audience participation that its stars encourage, I wish they’d just ripped the first ten rows out of the orchestra and sold those spots for ten bucks to music lovers. It probably would’ve violated a fire code or some union contract, but it also might’ve helped the energy in the crowd match the exceptional energy onstage.
First of all, the $10-general-admission-pit rush idea is brilliant. It made me excited just to read and consider the notion. I can just imagine how much fervor that would draw out of fans, or rather how much more enthused it would make theater goers about the show. People would feel rabid about this show, like they feel about the Hair revival, spurred on by the nightly invitation for the audience to come dance on stage. A $10 price would be perfect to not only match up with the fact that there would be no seat, but also to reflect the atmosphere and realism of the story's setting. It certainly didn't cost $85 to get into Fela's Shrine nightclub.

Kois's idea of ripping out rows of seats is definitely radical, and I am kind of on board (although I don't want to damage the beautiful Eugene O'Neill Theatre). That, however, would be a massive undertaking and an extra cost to Fela!'s backers to restore whenever its run ends. But who are we kidding? Jay-Z and Will Smith have the money—let's make this happen! (Not to mention we'd also have the newest chamption for Cheapest Rush Ever! ...Fine, there was also this one.)

Photo: Monique Carboni

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Next to Normal, #6

Two months ago, I winced at the news that Next to Normal was axing their general rush policy and starting a ticket lottery. For the obvious reasons, you can control a rush—how ambitious you are depends on you—but a lottery is completely up to chance. If you’ve planned your day around seeing a show, do you really want to leave it all up to chance? (And if your response to that is, “Buy a ticket!,” why are you reading this blog?)

So yesterday, I ventured to 45th St. to try my hand at Next to Normal’s fancy new lotto. I entered my name at 6 p.m. and retreated from the 45-degree drizzle to the covered passageway at the Marriott Marquis. One Scrabble victory on my iPhone later and it was time to report back to the Booth Theatre for the drawing. Since Next to Normal has a bit of a Broadway monopoly on Monday nights as most other shows are dark, I expected a larger crowd. By shrewd estimation, I counted 25 to 30 people. The theater representative announced there were 26 seats up for grabs—more than the usual 18 I’ve heard for this show. Maybe not enough people know about the Monday night performances.

The names kept being pulled and none were mine. Particularly grating was the fact that most of the winners only wanted one ticket (like me), so more names being called that weren’t mine was even more torture. The theater rep announced there was only one seat left. Just under the wire, he pulled my entry! I was definitely amused by the timing.

Being the last name called, I missed out on the front-row seating. But this being my sixth time seeing the show, a different perspective is always interesting. I was the last seat in the left box. At first I groaned at the extreme side view, but being that I was the furthest seat back, I was practically sitting in the mezzanine and had a fine view. Besides, with a slight lean over the right pole, no one’s head was in front of me. (I could also see director Michael Greif sitting in an aisle orchestra seat taking notes. Would love to know what ended up on those index cards!)

Of course, a lottery is only satisfactory if you win it. But victory aside, the lotto is still two tickets for $25 each with great seating. Next to Normal is still one of the best rush deals on Broadway.

Lottery: A

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fela!

How do you solve a problem like Fela!? If you’re crafting a musical based on the radical Nigerian musician who created the genre “Afrobeat” and used it to criticize his government, you must formulate a production that is just as outside-the-box as the man was. Director Bill T. Jones presents a Broadway-quality experience that feels unlike anything “Broadway.”

Jones paints the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in Fela’s colors. The show felt like it had already begun when I walked into the director/choreographer’s old Spring Awakening home. The band is already playing, and as I step into the building, I see that covering the walls are murals of African art, enlargements of Fela’s headline-making antics, and strands of lights stretching all the way from the back mezzanine to the boxes. The theater is unrecognizable and I felt like I wanted to get a table and eat a good meal there. For this show, arriving to the theater early allows you time to soak up the mood of Fela’s world and by the time the show begins (forgoing the parental “Unwrap your candy, turn off your cell phones” warning), your interest will be piqued.

I knew nothing about Fela Anikulapo-Kuti prior to this show, and I’m venturing to say few others did too. But being this is a bio-musical, the narrative is supposed to take care of that for you. By curtain call, I did have an understanding of Fela’s life, but I can’t say I’d pass a test on the details. I then thought theatergoers would benefit from a little trip to Wikipedia before taking their seats, but then certain plot points would be less of a surprise, such as Fela’s mother’s death (don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler. It’s made clear in the Playbill that she is dead, but the circumstances surrounding it are the real shocker).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dreamgirls

Having the national tour of Dreamgirls kick off at the Apollo Theater in Harlem is a special event. The historic theater is celebrating its 75th year, this incredibly successful show is coming off a much-lauded film adaptation, and it happens that the opening and closing scenes of Dreamgirls take place at the Apollo. So it’s a particularly commendable gesture that the Apollo is making an outreach to the community.

The theater is offering half-price tickets for specific “community performances.” To be eligible, you need to either be a Harlem resident or work in the neighborhood. Since I just happen to be a proud SpaHa resident, I sent my roommate to the Apollo to snap up some tickets before they were all gone. Sammy said there was a good line of people at the theater, and quite a bit of curiosity from passersby as to what the line was for. She was armed with an addressed envelope, to confirm our Harlem residency, and an ID to connect her with the mail. So as to keep this as close to a typical rush experience as possible, I entrusted Sammy not to purchase any tickets over $30.

I received an elated text from Sammy exclaiming, “$18.50!!!!” Ding ding ding! Ladies and gentlemen, we have our record-lowest rush price ever - $18.50! Congratulations, Dreamgirls; let’s see how long it takes for another production to beat that. (I know what you’re thinking. Bye Bye Birdie offered $10 tickets to the first preview. But those tickets were sold way in advance and… well, I didn’t get those tickets. Leave your objections in the comments.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The 39 Steps

Usually when I can’t follow the plotline of a show, that doesn’t bode well for how I feel about the production as a whole. Bizarrely enough, this is not the case with The 39 Steps. I was incredibly engaged the entire show, and I think I smiled the entire way through. I also didn’t know what the heck was going on. I hope that’s not an insult to writer John Buchan; it shouldn’t be. What he lacks in story clarity, he and director Maria Aitken make up for in stage directions and concept.

The 39 Steps is based on the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same title and follows Richard Hannay (Sean Mahon), a detective, a college professor, a mystery writer—I don’t know!—on a mad chase. The police are after him for the death of a strange woman, Annabella Schmidt, who was murdered in his home. Earlier in the night, the mysterious Annabella (who fired a gun in a theater and followed Richard home) yammered on to Richard about some kind of something, her search for this thing called “the 39 steps.” I don’t really know what she was talking about, but it sounded serious. Anyway, she ends up with a knife in her back and a freaked Richard takes off into the night, and somewhere along the way decides to continue Annabella’s search for the 39 steps.

But wait; this all sounds way too serious. The 39 Steps is a comical mystery (comystery?) similar to the style of Monty Python. The show is incredibly inventive; a cast of only four actors portrays 150 characters, using tricks such as shadows, quick costume changes, and abstract scenery. What’s delightful about this show is that it reaches out to an audience that knows how to use its imagination.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Broke-ology


It isn’t often that we see a stage family that gets along. Recently, we’ve seen the Goodmans in Next to Normal throw things at each other (OK, maybe only Alice Ripley does), and the Gordons of Dividing The Estate are at each others’ throats, as are the Westins of August: Osage County, literally. That the King family in Broke-ology is so close and jovial contributes to the warmth that emanates through this play by Nathan Louis Jackson. But hey, I didn’t say they were free of problems.

This Lincoln Center Theater production finds Malcolm (Alano Miller) returning home to his brother and father in Kansas City, Kansas, just after completing his master’s degree and securing a local job for the summer at the Environmental Protection Agency. His blue-collar father and restaurant-employee brother are both happy for his achievements, and even happier that he’s home. Both are in need of his aid, and assume Malcolm’s summer job means an indefinite stay.

Patriarch William (Wendell Pierce) is suffering from multiple sclerosis, and the homebound son, Ennis (Francois Battiste), is his caretaker. Ennis also has a pregnant girlfriend, and it doesn’t take long to see that he is stretched thin by his responsibilities. Malcolm is wrecked with guilt, torn between his needy family and even higher career aspirations tugging at him from Connecticut.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Avenue Q

Avenue Q continues to surprise people, even six years after its Broadway debut. It surprised audiences when it opened because… well, foul-mouthed puppets are a little shocking. It was the upset win for Best Musical at the 2004 Tony Awards, beating out the favored mega-hit Wicked. And it announced what no one saw coming at its closing night performance on Broadway on September 13—the show was re-opening off Broadway!

The announcement sets a sort of precedent for struggling Broadway shows; The New York Times reported that the last incident of a Broadway-off Broadway transfer occurred in 1984. When last January saw the closing of three Best Musical Tony winners (Spamalot, Hairspray and Spring Awakening), enthusiasts claimed the shows were too good to be closing this soon. Of course, if a show’s not making enough to pay the bills, that’s just the way it is. But Avenue Q’s surprise move could start a new trend in New York theater. And it makes perfect sense—Avenue Q wasn’t selling well enough to earn its keep at the Golden Theatre, yet interest in the show was still strong enough to fill an off-Broadway venue. Perhaps Avenue Q’s strategy will give new life to future shows that have slipped in sales, but still maintain a strong fan base.

I saw Avenue Q on Broadway in 2005 and loved it. But a few years have passed and I forgot the reasons that made it great. Viewing it at its new home at New World Stages (where it opened last night) made me remember, and grateful that this show got its second chance.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Memphis

Some great rock musicals have made their way to Broadway in the “post Rent” era. Spring Awakening, Passing Strange, and Next to Normal have all piqued my interest in the evolution of the Broadway musical. With Memphis billed as a story about “the birth of rock and roll,” I was expecting to tack another show onto this list. And I had reason to think so.

While I was standing outside the Shubert Theatre in the brisk October morning air, two people walked by me, noticed I was waiting for tickets, and exuberantly told me what a treat I was in for. This kind of man-on-the-street feedback was surprising to me, particularly for a show that was still in previews. I felt so good about myself! I was the first rusher in line at 9:30 a.m. (come on people; you’re making this too easy!) and only had to wait a half hour to get front row tickets to a show that two New Yorkers thought was great.

The student rush policy for Memphis was a great one. It was the good ol’ two-tickets-in-the-front-row-for-$26.50-each deal. The reason I say “was” though is because the policy was only in effect during previews (Memphis opened last night). When contacted, publicists for Memphis told me that there are no official plans to instate a rush post-opening, but there has been talk of it and it will depend on week-to-week sale monitoring. So I guess that means all you rushers waiting to see this new musical will have to hope the show isn’t a sellout. Memphis sold just over 91 percent of its tickets last week, so the likelihood of a rush being reinstated soon isn’t looking too good.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Oleanna


Trust no one! That is the message of Oleanna. Well, there are actually quite a lot of messages packed into David Mamet’s two-character drama, but that’s certainly the theme that I left the theater with.

Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles box star in this revival of Mamet’s 80-minute drama about a college professor and student embroiled in a high-stakes battle of words. But trust me; it’s uglier than it sounds. Is the college professor (Pullman) sexist? Is the student (Stiles) over sensitive? Has he made an attempt to diminish her? Or is she just out for blood? None of these questions can be answered definitively, which is frustrating. But half the fun is considering all arguments in your head when the play is over.

What’s frightening about Oleanna is that it’s setting is based on an occurrence we can all relate to: seeking extra help from a teacher. It’s innocent enough—a student is trying to learn and the teacher is willing to aid the process; no one expects, well… the furniture to be turned upside down. Oleanna presents this common scenario in nightmare form: the student feeling harassed and the teacher having his career and personal life about to be shattered.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Next to Normal" Ends Rush Policy, Begins Ticket Lottery


In the words of Melchior in Spring Awakening, "HHHHNNNOOOOOO!!" Next to Normal will end its excellent rush policy October 12 and begin a ticket lottery for day-of seats. Granted, this means no more cold, early mornings, but with it comes the uncertainty of seeing the show. I am greatly disappointed by this news, not only because it makes getting rush tickets for the Yorkey/Kitt musical significantly more difficult, but I've always felt the "snobby," we're-too-good-for-you shows employ ticket lottos.

Let the facts speak for themselves. Hair, In The Heights, Rock of Ages, Shrek, West Side Story, and Wicked all hold ticket lottos. With few exceptions, these are shows that generally sell at least 90 percent of their tickets every week. Shrek is an odd beast in that it hasn't consistently sold well since it's opening last December and it also has a (overly-priced) student rush policy. In The Heights was a huge seller for a year after its 2008 Tony win for Best Musical, but has recently dipped to dangerously low numbers (some suspect it might close in January). But Hair, Rock of Ages, and West Side Story are monster-sellers and crowd pleasers, not to even mention the mega-bucks earnings of Wicked, which always sells out the 1,809-seat Gershwin (aka. the largest Broadway theater).

Now in my mind, Next to Normal is the best musical currently on Broadway. But we have to think of this from a mainstream perspective: Next to Normal is no Wicked. The show has been on a massive high from its Tony wins, but attendance has slipped to the high 80s in recent weeks (still strong, but a decline nonetheless). And Broadway's prized theatergoers—families with kids—are not going to see this show. And there is nothing wrong with that. Next to Normal caters to theatergoers who aren't afraid of a dark, depressing, thought-provoking show. But this is not the show to start a ticket lottery with. As much as I'd hate to see its sales suffer, I would be surprised if it maintains its current momentum into the post-holiday winter.

Lotteries are for shows—such as Wicked and Hair—that have certain longevity. But if recent trends have taught us anything, is anything on Broadway certain?

What do you think, Stage Rushers? Are you happy about this new lotto policy for Next to Normal, or are you clenching your fists in an anguished grip?

PS: In perusing the updated show rush policies, I noticed that the new musical Memphis, currently in previews, has a rush policy "in effect only for preview performances." Memphis, I really want to see you; I do. But let's not play the we-can't-have-a-rush-policy-because-we're-going-to-be-too-popular card until we've opened, shall we?

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Boy and His Soul

Editor’s note: In the spirit all the exciting changes that are occurring with this blog, it is my pleasure to present Stage Rush’s first guest blogger, Kym Formisano.


When Jesse asked me to be the very first guest blogger for Stage Rush, I cannot deny the wave of complete and utter fear that washed over me. I certainly questioned his sanity briefly; after all, handing Stage Rush over to little old me is akin to entrusting a homeless man on the subway with your firstborn. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration. But there was a huge amount of trepidation and anxiety on my part, especially when I discovered I would also be covering the first off-Broadway play to be discussed on the blog. Gulp.


As it turns out, I had little need to be so concerned. Actually, what began as a nerve-wracking trip to the always-beautiful Union Square turned into not only one of the easiest and most efficient rushes I’ve done, but also a powerful and vivid theatrical experience matched only by the energy and undying vigor of the show’s star.

Colman Domingo, one of the players in the gone-too-soon masterpiece Passing Strange and its recent film adaptation by Spike Lee, stars in the one-man show he authored, A Boy and His Soul, at the Vineyard Theatre. The Vineyard, previous home to shows like [title of show] and Avenue Q, is an unassuming brick structure with a quaint sensibility (before a certain time, one must be buzzed into the lobby) and an interior that brings to mind a combination of a small-town theater company and a modern art gallery. Because of the erratic nature of some off-Broadway theaters and their rush policies (I’m looking at you, Atlantic Theater Company), I decided to check with the receptionist well before show time to make sure I had the correct rush policy information. After being buzzed in by a super-pleasant voice, I entered the lobby and was immediately greeted by an enthusiastic and helpful box office attendant. The rush policy here is fairly standard: show up two hours prior to curtain with cash in hand and receive up to two tickets at $20 each. It is also a general rush, so don’t worry if you’ve lost your student ID. I left with a sense of confidence, ready to return at 5 p.m. and purchase my tickets.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

PSA: Major Upgrades

Big news, Stage Rushers! To kick off this new Broadway season, Stage Rush decided to step up its game and get some upgrades. Why? Because we want to bring you the best in covering Broadway and the rush experience. And because, well, we kinda like doing it. So please listen up for the following announcements:
  • Stage Rush can now be found at www.stage-rush.com. (But we guess you've already realized that.)
  • Stage Rush is now on Twitter! Please follow @StageRush
When you're rushing a show, @ us on Twitter and let us know how it's going! The hours before the box office opens can move pretty slowly in those cold winter months; you might as well tell someone about it. @ us whenever you have a theater-related thought or have something you want to share. Theater is a community and we're honored to be a part of it with you. Thank you for reading Stage Rush!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Steady Rain

Welcome back, Stage Rushers! A new Broadway season has begun, and I don’t know about you, but I feel absolutely overwhelmed by all the shows that I want to see. So let’s start off the 2009/10 season with a bang.

I was terrified to rush A Steady Rain. I couldn’t even fathom the masses that would flock to a production starring the men that brought the Drover and Tuvia Bielski to life on the big screen. (Sigh) Ok, fine—Wolverine and James Bond! This play starring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig stands as one of the starriest marquees in recent memory. Sure, there’s been Julia Roberts, Geoffrey Rush, and Jane Fonda in recent years, but both of these actors in one play is huge. The last films in their respective franchises each earned over $150 million domestically, and they also share critical adoration. Their appearance in a 1,071-seat theater is something of an event, to say the least.

In preparation of my plans to rush the show last Friday while it was still in previews (it opened last night), I decided to swing by the Shoenfeld Theatre the day before on my way to work to scope out the rush crowd. I was trying to gauge what time I should arrive at the theater the next morning. Times that were running through my head were 7, even 6 a.m. But to my great surprise, at 9:35 a.m., there were only eight people in the rush line for A Steady Rain. I didn’t know how it was possible, but I ditched my next-day plans and got in line right away. There’s no time like the present, right?

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Early Birdie Special

It was a beautiful, 90-degree summer day to wait in line on 42 St. for $10 tickets to the first preview performance of Bye Bye Birdie. That is, if you didn't have a job. I stopped by the line for the ambitious marketing stunt when the box office opened at noon. At that point, there were 400 people stretching down 43 St. where the box office for the new Henry Miller's Theatre is, through the covered passageway of the Bank of America Tower, and to the end of 42 St. at Avenue of the Americas. The line was moving sssslllloooww, but for those with the time (and skin) to burn, it was worth the wait for cheap tickets (up to two per person) to the first performance in the new Broadway theater on September 10.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rushing 12 Nights in Advance: The State of the Rush

I love Anne Hathaway. Like, love her. So when I heard she was doing Shakespeare in the Park's Twelfth Night this summer with Raul Esparza, my other favorite actor, I couldn't contain my excitement. In fact, I tweeted on April 15 "Raul Esparza has been cast in Twelfth Night, which is already starring Anne Hathaway. I'm getting in line NOW!" Little did I know I should have followed through with that tweet.

On Sunday, I was shut out from getting tickets to the performance. Unfortunately, it was the production's final show. I know, I should have planned to do the famed Central Park rush earlier in the run, but due to scheduling conflicts, this is the way it worked out. But I took precautions. I arrived at 5:45 a.m.—a time I thought might even be over ambitious. But as the eternally long line of ticket hopefuls moved from Central Park West into the park (Central Park is technically not open to the public before 6 a.m.), line monitors of the Public Theater cut off the line when it reached a certain point, allowing no one else to join. There were already more people than there were tickets available, they said. After asking people who just made the cut off what time they arrived, I learned that on this particular day, unless you arrived at 4 a.m., you were out of luck.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Next to Normal, #s 1-4

It’s kind of hard to write about a show and a rush that are both perfection. Hence, the reason why I’ve seen Next to Normal four times and am just writing about it now.

The rush for Next to Normal is about as organized as a rush can get. Let this one stand as the example for all rushes. Theater employees distribute wristband numbers to the people in line (no, you don’t have to wear the wristband). This eliminates line cutting and allows people to run briefly to the bathroom or get a snack. I can’t express how many times the pals of people in front of me have joined them in line while I’ve been in place for hours. This isn’t a problem on the Next to Normal rush (just watch that it doesn’t happen before the wristbands are distributed).

Not only is this rush organized, but it’s generous. This is a general rush, meaning you don’t have to be a student to take part. The tickets are $25 a piece (each person can buy two, and the box office doesn’t tack on the usual $1.50 facilities charge). Furthermore, the seats are in the front row, which is a special experience for this show (more on this later). I’ve heard that once the front row is filled, rushers are put in the mezzanine and sometimes a box.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

God of Carnage

Does trying to score discount tickets to a show a week after it won the Tony for Best Play seem overambitious? Not if you just played The Ultimate Rush.

Since God of Carnage did, in fact, win that prestigious award just a week before I decided to get standing-room-only tickets for it, I knew I'd have to get to the theater early. (It's one of those pesky shows that doesn't offer a student rush. Excuuuse me!) Thanks to a summer Fridays policy at my work, I was able to arrive at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre at 3:45 p.m. (standing tickets go on sale two hours prior to the performance). I was the first on line, and thus, felt pretty confident in my chances of getting a ticket. I had asked the box office attendant where we standing-room hopefuls should line up. I always think that's a smart way to go; it's better than having them rearrange the line later because you've all formed in the wrong place. Not long after I took my place outside the theater, about 25 people joined me in line, and over the course of two hours, we experienced The Rush of Dumb Questions. "Are you in line?" a woman asked no one in particular in our linear formation. "Are you waiting for tickets?" a woman queried me (being at the head of the line also has its disadvantages). The taker has to be the woman who asked, "What are you waiting for?" Me: "Standing room tickets." Woman: "So you stand?" (pause) Me: "Yes." Don't they read this blog?? But all was made better when a very enthusiastic, possibly homeless man (who am I to assume?) answered a young couple who asked him if the show offered marked-down tickets. "This show doesn't have discounts! Do you know how many Tonys they won??" At 6:10 p.m. (a little late), the box office attendant ushered us into the lobby. I purchased my standing room ticket for $26.50 (you can buy up to two) and "prepared myself for the chaos and the carnage," as the theater usher would ask me, deadpanned, later when I took my spot for the performance.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Tony Awards, 2009

Well Rushers, Cinderfella is back from the ball. The Tony Awards was a surreal, dreamlike experience, and I realized that sleeping on the street is a small price to pay for amazing memories.

Kym, my date, and I arrived at Radio City Music Hall at 6 p.m. We had butterflies in our stomachs and were laughing because it wasn't like we were nominated or performing. As we lingered around the entrance at 6th Ave and 50th St, trying to figure out how to approach entering, Best Featured Actor in a Play nominee John Glover from Waiting For Godot passed by. We twiddled our thumbs for a few more minutes, waiting to cross paths with more arriving celebrities, but soon decided we better find the commoners entrance and start making our way in. The entrance line for regular ticket holders stretched nearly around the entire block. We waited in line and felt the discriminating eyes of the tourists parked on Rockefeller Center benches meandering over our outfits. As we crawled toward the security check, we saw Heidi Blickenstaff from [title of show], accompanied by Christopher J. Hanke. As we entered the venue, we realized that Heidi had to enter the same way we did—which we felt extremely bad about. The girl was not only in a Tony-nominated show, but she was also Ursula in The Little Mermaid! [title of show] just gets no respect (which we realized again during the ceremony).

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Ultimate Rush conquered, lessons learned

Like many things in life, the big scary moments that we all anticipate loom in front of us like they are impenetrable, but they often come to pass like a cool breeze. The Ultimate Rush lived up to its expectations, in that it was completely unpredictable, and nothing went the way I expected. And it definitely ranks as the most scary, fun, crazy, stressful rush I have done. It makes it even more memorable that I was able to cover it not only for Stage Rush, but also for BizBash [Tonys Offer Discounted Tickets for Those Willing to Spend the Night in the Rain].

In the day that preceded The Ultimate Rush, I was on the verge of throwing up all day. The thought of sitting outside all night in the rain for tickets that weren't even guaranteed was enough to turn my stomach. Don't think there wasn't a temptation to just skip it and watch the ceremony from the comfort of my couch. But I forged ahead with the plans anyway. While getting ready at my apartment, I packed an umbrella, poncho (which I have never worn in my life), hoodie, blanket, towel, and gloves. I even shaved so that I would look more like my student ID picture (you can't tell me that's not dedication).

















Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tony Awards announce first-ever student rush, aka. The Ultimate Rush

Get your game faces on, Rushers—your ultimate challenge has arrived. The Tony Awards has announced that for the first time ever, student rush tickets will be offered for the ceremony.

(Have you recovered yet? Well do so, because you've got a tough road ahead of you.)

When examining the details of this rush, all I see in my head is Mario struggling to hurdle over all the obstacles in the final, most difficult level of Donkey Kong. This rush is like jumping through fire and water, and then battling the most fearsome video game BOSS. This is The Ultimate Rush.
  • The first 200 people in line will be eligible.
  • They then must enter their names into a ticket lottery. This is a double rush!
Have you ever tried to play a ticket lotto with 200 people? My guess is that 50 tickets will be given away. A hundred seems like too much—that would make the odds 50/50 and that just sounds too good to be true. In addition, most people will definitely be signing up for two tickets (yes, each winner is entitled up to two tickets), so that will cut the number of names drawn down to about 25. And what time should you arrive? Is 3 a.m. even too late? Honestly, I'm thinking midnight/1 a.m. (shudders). But for Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele's final performance in Spring Awakening, student rushers started lining up at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre during the performance the night before! This one's a tough call, but I'll be shooting for 1 a.m.

Here are the rest of the details about The Ultimate Rush:
  • WHERE: The Broadway Concierge & Ticket Center, 1560 Broadway, between 46 and 47 Sts.
  • WHEN: When you arrive is up to you. First 200 in line will enter their names into the lotto at 11 a.m. The lotto drawing will take place at 3 p.m. Tony nominee Constantine Maroulis from Rock of Ages and fellow cast member James Carpinello will conduct the drawing.
  • HOW MUCH: $40 per ticket (cash only), up to two tickets per lotto winner.
  • WHAT TO WEAR: Well, if you're a winner, you must have black-tie attire for the Tony Awards ceremony.
That's it, Rushers. The Ultimate Rush awaits you. Check back here at Stage Rush for full coverage of the Tony rush (I will be doing it. And it is supposed to rain. all. night.). May the best Rushers win!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

West Side Story

Today I learned a harsh lesson in rushing. And it came at a high price. For the first time ever, I rushed without getting a ticket. Here is the tale about my first strike out.

Accompanied by my fellow rushing pro friend, Kym, we headed over to the Booth Theatre in the early a.m. to rush Next to Normal. I will admit - I have gotten complacent while rushing. Chalk it up to too many successful and easy rushes, or maybe my rushing ego was getting in the way. But I made a misstep. We arrived at the Booth at 8 a.m. Some might say that's early enough, but during the week of the Tonys, with Next to Normal being nominated for 11 awards, and it being something you and a friend have your hearts set on seeing - it's not a good idea to get lazy. There were 18 people ahead of us. I knew we wouldn't be able to get rush tickets. I did, however, think we were a cinch to get the $36.50-priced tickets that Normal offers (a fantastic deal, and a great backup option to rush). But believe it or not, the new musical that started out with tepid ticket sales is now boiling hot - the performance was sold out. The person in front of us snatched the last two rush seats and there were no other seats available.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

First Independent Theater Blogger Awards Announced


Greetings, Rushers! I am extremely excited to announce the winners of the first Independent Theater Blogger Awards for the 2009 theater season. ITBA is the first official organization of theater bloggers, a group that I am honored to be a part of.

BROADWAY

BEST BROADWAY PLAY
Reasons To Be Pretty

Written by: Neil Labute
Directed by: Terry Kinney
Produced by: Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Gary Goddard Entertainment, Ted Snowdon, Doug Nevin/Erica Lynn Schwartz, Ronald Frankel/Bat-Barry Productions, Kathleen Seidel, Kelpie Arts, Jam Theatricals, Rachel Helson/Heather Provost and Scott M. Delman

BEST BROADWAY MUSICAL
Billy Elliot

Music by: Elton John
Lyrics by: Lee Hall

Book by: Lee Hall
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Produced by: Universal Pictures, Working Title, The Old Vic Company, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Jon Finn and Sally Greene

BEST BROADWAY REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
Hair

Music by: Galt MacDermot
Lyrics by: James Rado, Gerome Ragni
Book by: James Rado, Gerome Ragni
Directed by: Diane Paulus
Produced by: The Joseph Papp Public Theater / New York Shakespeare Festival, Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Gary Goddard Entertainment, Kathleen K. Johnson, Nederlander Productions, Fran Kirmser Productions/Jed Bernstein, Marc Frankel, Broadway Across America, Barbara Manocherian/Wencarlar Productions, JK Productions/Terry Schnuck, Andy Sandberg, Jam Theatricals, The Weinstein Company/Norton Herrick and Jujamcyn Theatres

BEST BROADWAY REVIVAL OF A PLAY
The Norman Conquests

Written by: Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by: Matthew Warchus
Produced by: Sonia Friedman Productions, Steven Baruch, Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, Thomas Viertel, Dede Harris, Tulchin/Bartner/Lauren Doll, Jamie deRoy, Eric Falkenstein, Harriet Newman Leve, Probo Productions, Douglas G. Smith, Michael Filerman/Jennifer Manocherian and Richard Winkler

OFF-BROADWAY

BEST OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL
Fela!

Book by: Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones
Directed by: Bill T. Jones
Music and Lyrics by: Fela Anikulapo Kuti
Add'l Music by: Aaron Johnson and Jordan McLean
Add'l Lyrics by: Jim Lewis
Produced by: Ruth and Stephen Hendel and Roy Gabay

BEST OFF-BROADWAY PLAY
Ruined

Written by: Lynn Nottage
Directed by: Kate Whoriskey
Produced by: Manhattan Theatre Club and Goodman Theatre

BEST OFF-BROADWAY REVIVAL (PLAY OR MUSICAL)
Our Town

Written by: Thornton Wilder
Directed by: David Cromer
Produced by: Scott Morfee, Jean Doumanian, Tom Wirtshafter, Ted Snowdon, Eagle Productions, Dena Hammerstein/Pam Pariseau, The Weinstein Company, Burnt Umber Productions

BEST OFF-OFF BROADWAY PLAY
Universal Robots

Written by: Mac Rogers
Directed by: Rosemary Andress
Produced by: Manhattan Theater Source

BEST OFF-OFF BROADWAY UNIQUE THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE
Suspicious Package

Written by: Gyda Arber & Aaron Baker
Directed by: Gyda Arber
Produced by: The Fifth Wall as part of The Antidepressant Festival

CITATION FOR EXCELLENCE IN OFF-OFF BROADWAY THEATER
Flux Theatre Ensemble

The ITBA (Independent Theater Bloggers Association) was formed in 2009 by a group of the most passionate theater bloggers on the World Wide Web (partial list below). The members of the Association blog about all aspects and all varieties of both commercial and non-profit theater, from big Broadway musicals performed in Times Square, to the most unique forms of entertainment performed off-off Broadway on the Lower East Side, as well as productions all over the country and all over the world. Together they see thousands of productions, and, without being paid or prodded, they write about them.

Ken Davenport, founder of the ITBA, said, “The Association was formed out of a desire to provide structure to the quickly growing theatrical blogosphere, as well as to give the new media voices a chance to recognize excellence in three of the very distinct theatrical markets that make up the New York City theatrical landscape: Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway.”

In true “new media” style, there will be no live awards ceremony for the ITBA Awards. Instead, there will be a virtual awards ceremony, with video acceptance speeches for the winners posted electronically in the coming weeks on ITBA’s website, www.TheaterBloggers.com.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Billy Elliot

Welcome back to this week's edition of "Another movie-musical that disappointments me!" Today's show features intense bleaching of dark themes, feather-light songs, and repressed homosexuality turned not-so repressed.

It's been a while since I've rushed a show that had a long line, but I wasn't surprised there was one for this show. Billy Elliot sells its student rush tickets two hours prior to the performance for $41.50, and officially bests Shrek the Musical for the most expensive rush ticket I've heard of. Since Billy sells nearly all of its tickets each week, I suppose it's pride that inspires the producers to set the rush rate at this price. To put this in perspective, $41.50 for a Broadway show is not a bad deal. But since we're talking student discounts, the reason such a practice was put into place was so that students with limited funds could experience Broadway for a cheaper rate. Rear mezzanine seats can be bought for this price at nearly any Broadway show.

The lobby of the Imperial Theatre is quite large, so the rush line forms inside, which always makes me happy. I arrived just a few minutes before 5 p.m., and just beat a large group of people that tagged on behind me. Anyone planning on rushing this would be well advised to arrive between 4 and 4:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased with credit or debit and each person may receive two tickets. The seats are nothing special - rear mezzanine for the performance I attended. The Imperial Theatre is gigantic (it seats 1,421) and the facial expressions of the actors weren't too easy to make out.

Monday, April 20, 2009

33 Variations

Before seeing 33 Variations, Moises Kaufman's play exploring why Ludwig van Beethoven composed the titular arrangements seems like a big "No, thank you." But sometimes we have to look deeper to find the gem that lies within something. Kaufman and Beethoven did the same thing.

I took a chance by arriving at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre at 9 a.m. to wait for rush tickets, instead of the more customary (and safe) 8 a.m. I didn't think the billing of Jane Fonda would pull a big audience from people my age, and the play has been performing to average house capacities of under 58 percent for the past four weeks. Those factors make for no guarantee that there won't be a... well, rush for rush, but in this case, my guess was accurate. Only two other rushers joined me in line a few minutes before the box office opened. 33 Variations participates in the rare policy of only distributing one rush ticket per valid ID. Who goes to see a play alone?! Yes, I often do; but attending a theater performance is usually a social event, which a rush policy shouldn't hinder. In addition, the ticket price is $30 - an annoying $4.50 above the standard amount. However, the tickets are in the front row, center section. I was shocked they were giving those seats for this play. The view was fantastic, and being that close to a film legend like Fonda was a special experience.

Friday, April 10, 2009

reasons to be pretty

At a time in our culture when the man-boy is king at the box office, it seems to be the hip thing to discover what makes a man like this and what does it take for him to shake the first part of that moniker. reasons to be pretty is Neil LaBute's take on the man boy, and how to smack the child right out of him (perhaps literally).

The student rush policy for reasons to be pretty states that the tickets go on sale two hours prior to the performance. I arrived at the Lyceum Theatre at 5 p.m., book in hand, ready to wait an hour for tickets to be released (hoping I'd be permitted to wait in the lobby instead of under the threatening clouds). I went to the ticket window to check that there were rush tickets available for the performance and the attendant surprisingly initiated the transaction - an hour early. That's not the policy, but I'm certainly not going to complain. I was in and out, $26.50 third row balcony seat in hand. That's the third tier in the Lyceum, which is so high and steep that it makes my palms sweat. The seats weren't bad, but for a play that's been playing to 42 percent attendance for the past three weeks, I'd have thought rush seats would have been closer. However, the producers seem quite discount friendly; in addition to the student rush policy, there are show promoters around Times Square offering $35-ticket coupons to the production.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Guys and Dolls

Guys and Dolls is a big musical. It's got big orchestrations, big scenery, big characters, and a big history. So in its third iteration on Broadway, it's surprising that what keeps this classic afloat are the minor details.

I arrived at the Nederlander Theatre (gorgeously renovated, post Rent) just before 8:30 a.m. I was alone in line and remained so until I was joined by three other rushers just before the box office opened. Why such a slow rush day for this show? It's a little odd, since during the month of March, Guys and Dolls sold 91.6 percent of its tickets. It was chilly, but being that it's now April (yay spring!!) it was an easier haul. At 10 a.m., the box office opened and I picked up my $26.50 ticket for what was one of the best seats I've ever had for a show, with or without rush. Mezzanine, fourth row, dead center. It was probably one of the few times I've ever felt guilty sitting among all those patrons that paid top dollar. At $26.50, with seats like this, and a two-ticket option - this seems to be the rush to beat this season.

video

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blithe Spirit

There are some things in life that, if given the opportunity, you simply have to do. Seeing Angela Lansbury on a Broadway stage is one of them. Thus, rushing the revival of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, starring Mrs. Potts herself, was a no-brainer.

The Blithe Spirit student rush is a tricky one to maneuver, in that discounted tickets go on sale two hours prior to curtain. If the rush begins when the box office opens, I know to show up two hours prior. No problem. But in the case of Blithe, do you show up right at 6 p.m.? Do you come 15 minutes before? Or do you wait all damn day at the front of the line? It's difficult to judge how many people will show up for rush, and when. Well, I loves me some discounted tickets, but I'm sure as hell not going to create an all day vigil at the head of a one-person line.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The fall of 'Spring' rush

It's not often that one gets to travel back in time, but thanks to Google (what can't it do?) I have done just that, and re-witnessed one of the great eras in Broadway rush history.

During a short bout of procrastination, I was fooling around on Google Maps, using the "street view" function. Since it's way too cold to take an actual walk through Times Square, I thought it'd be pleasant to go for a virtual stroll instead. While I was "there," I was looking for clues to discover around what time the photography of the area was taken. Warner Bros. owns the billboard space that hangs above 7th Ave and W 47th St., and that space always advertises the company's current major release. Low and behold, it was The Brave One, which was released in September 2007. My mind immediately jumped to Spring Awakening, which recently (and sadly) closed on Broadway. I thought, Wouldn't it be nice to see the old marquee once again?

I decided to "walk" over to the Eugene O'Neil Theatre on 49th St. Once I "arrived," what did I find there but... the student rush line!! Which means the photographs were taken in the morning, since rush tickets went on sale when the box office opened.

It was nostaligc to see the Spring Awakening student rush line, since I'd rushed the show 11 times (seen the show 18 times though). Spring Awakening's rush policy was not only one of the best offered (tickets were always available, and ususally in the first few rows, extreme right and left), but it was also one of the most popular.

It's also special to see the original posters, featuring original stars John Gallagher Jr., Jonathan Groff, and Lea Michele (before they were later replaced by Blake Bashoff, Kyle Riabko, and Alexandra Socha).

Thus concludes today's lesson in Broadway rush history.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Shrek the Musical

Getting discounted tickets for Shrek the Musical today presented itself as an all-too-easy task. But rushing is a gamble, and things either fall right into place or they, well, don't. Shrek has a student rush policy, but it's $36.50, which is the most expensive student rush price I have ever seen. Although such a high rush price is a bit odd for a production that played to just over 51 percent capacity in late January, the producers probably had to differenciate the price from that of their ticket lottery, which they seem to be pushing much harder.

Cutely named The Duloc Ticket Lottery to connect with the show, the drawing is held in the M&Ms World store (five blocks away from Shrek's Broadway Theatre). This is an interesting partnership between production and retail, as it seems to encourage commerce 'while you wait.' The only other show I've known to do this was the now defunct Young Frankenstein, which held its lotto drawing at the 42nd St. McDonald's. That, however, was across the street from the Hilton Theatre and seemed convenient enough. I don't quite understand why Shrek would hold its lotto drawing at M&Ms World when it is so far away (and the Broadway Theatre has an enormous lobby), other than they're getting a small kickback from Mars Inc.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Equus

I long for summer. Not because I'll be able to take long walks in Central Park without my ears falling off. Not because I can sit outside at Blockheads and enjoy $3 frozen margaritas. But because student rushing shows won't be such torture!

I arrived at the Broadhurst Theatre at 8:15 this morning. I was first in line, which is satisfying, yet at the same time always induces me with the irrational fear that all other rushers must know something I don't, or else why wouldn't they already be here. I especially was nervous because this is the final week for the run of this Peter Shaffer play and had thought more rushers would be taking their last chances. My arrival to the theater must have been Mother Nature's cue, because a blizzard commenced instantly, and lasted through the box office opening (not to mention the rest of the day). I stood just under the edge of the awning where the most logical entrance to the box office would be, come 10am. By the time a few people had joined me in my frigid wait for tickets, the fourth girl in line asked if we wouldn't mind changing our line direction so that everyone could be standing under the awning and sheltered from the snow. I had no qualms with this, but the theater's lobby attendent did. Why, I don't know, but she wanted the line to start by the door furthest from the ticket window. This left everyone who joined the student rush line standing in the snow, except for me. I was dry, but I'll admit, I felt pretty guilty.