Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, April 13, 2015

Seeing the latest bright lights on Broadway

Despite living near New York City, attending the theater is not something that I can do on even a semi-regular basis. The expense, the distance and the fact that many of the shows on Broadway can be just as crass and commercial as any cinematic offering at a multiplex can be, all add up to keeping live theater out of my pop culture routine.

However, that doesn't mean that I wouldn't check out a show that looks promising or at least a good time to be had by all, if given the chance.

 Not to mention that Broadway can provide perhaps even more opportunities for original productions than their flashy sister Hollywood can. Let's look at a few of the more engaging shows out there that could truly be worth their weight in box office gold:

FUN HOME: This adaptation of Alison Bechdel's autobiographical graphic novel began as an Off-Broadway musical, winning critical acclaim and several awards such as Best Musical from the New York Drama Critics Circle and an Obie award for one of it's young stars, Sydney Lucas, playing the childhood version of Bechdel.

The story line is not linear, as Bechdel goes through her memories of growing up and discovering her sexual identity, one that her father struggled with himself all his life and which lead to his death not long after she outed herself. Having read Fun Home recently, I find it wonderful that this touching heartfelt and yes, even humorous at time, tale is now reaching new audiences and breaking through some of those sad stereotypes about what constitutes a relatable heroine these days:

HAND TO GOD: There's a bevvy of buzz about this play that has a hand puppet as one of the main attractions. That puppet is Tyrone, who is the hidden persona of Jason, a shy teenager trying to cope with the death of his dad by joining a Christian puppeteer club.

Tyrone, however, tends to talk dirtier than a sewer and his brutal mix of vulgarity and truth telling causes Jason's small circle of family and friends to believe that he's possessed.

I am a sucker for puppets of all sorts, especially the rude and crude types, and it's no surprise that one of it's creators also put Avenue Q on stage. Tyrone sounds like he could throw down with even the harshest of Muppets and give a few of those Charlie McCarthy types a real run for their money:

THE VISIT: The revival of this classic Kander and Ebb musical has a fresh script by Terence McNally and stars one of the true divas of the stage as it's leading lady. Chita Rivera plays wealthy widow Claire, who returns to her home town with the promise of reviving the ailing village with her funds.

The price to be paid for that is the demise of Anton, a former lover whose past crimes she can not forgive. Just hearing the dulcet tones of Chita Rivera alone is enough to make this a must-see but the poignancy of seeing Claire interact with her younger memory version of herself in many scenes should be taken as the richest icing on this decadently divine cake:

THE AUDIENCE: Speaking of divas, Helen Mirren takes her Oscar winning film role as the now reigning Queen of England and expands upon it in a show that covers several administrations of British Prime Ministers.

Focusing on the weekly meetings between Elizabeth II and the current PM of the day, the show takes us from her early days in power through many ups and downs that she and the country faced. Granted, this show appeals to my Anglophile side but I'm not the only one who finds few remnants of the British monarchy that remain to be fascinating food for thought:

 Oh,well, even if the theatrical experience isn't something that I can personally savor, I am glad that it's still a viable option out there for artists and audiences alike.  Besides, a couple of these shows might become movies someday, so I might see them on screen one way or the other.

 Theater is one of the those time honored endeavors that seem so out of reach yet still manage to connect with the wider pop culture world.  It's sort of funny how even a small expose to the magic of Broadway can bring folks together to appreciate the beauty of live art, sometimes when least expected:

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