Thursday, March 15, 2012

Preview Opening Night

Lottery line, from the @Newsies feed.
My sister and I are in there!
My sister was seeing opening preview with me, but we had practically the entire day to kill in anticipation for the 8pm show, so we walked around the big city and did some shopping until it was time for the Newsies lottery. A friend of mine who lives in the city wanted to see Newsies too, but he didn't have a ticket so we were going to try our luck in scoring him one. We lost! But the lottery was fun and insane. There were probably 100 or so people all vying for the same 28 seats! We went to dinner where we met up with my friend who wanted the ticket, and one of my sister's friends who is a playwright living in the city. I broke the bad news to my friend that we lost the lottery, but he could try swinging by the theatre before he went home to see if maybe they had something left over. He left dinner a little early to check the box office. Not long after he bid us adieu and we were wrapping up dinner he text me to say he went ahead and bought a full price ticket in the 5th row. He just couldn't NOT see it since I was such a big fan. I guess my excitement is contagious!

This is Paper Mill, but the set looks the same on Broadway.
The Nederlander feels a lot smaller than Paper Mill, but it is
cozy and nice.
We make it to the theatre about 10 minutes before show time, so the giant line has already filtered in. I immediately hit up a merchandise booth to collect one of my my Newsies messenger bags. I told the guy I had 11 vouchers, and he told me I better take them all right away because there is a good chance they will run out. So I do, but it takes a little while for him to get them all collected for me, and the show is about to start. I tell my sister to go to our seats and I will join her as soon as I can. I have seen the show after all, so if I miss the very beginning I won't be too upset about it. She had never seen it, so I wanted to make sure she didn't miss a thing. She is a theatre professor, and she and I both grew up with Newsies, so I am really interested in her reactions to the stage adaptation. I am also really excited for her to experience the energy I haven't been able to shut up about since I saw the show at Paper Mill those few months ago. The lights dim - the screens retract, and there we are, high above the stinkin' streets of of New York with Jack and Crutchie. 

From what I can tell by watching the opening scene from the merchandise area, this scene hasn't changed much since Paper Mill. The blocking is better and makes a lot more sense. The dialogue is a little different, but is still relaying the same message. I am watching from the back of the theatre, because it takes the entire opening scene for me to get my merchandise sorted, but I take my seat during the scene change and try to find a place to stuff 11 messenger bags at my feet.

Almost nothing from the set has changed, though the Nederlander Theatre as a space is a little more... awkward? Not for the actors so much as the audience. Over half of the orchestra audience can't see the top of the set (the third tier) due to the mezzanine overhang. Thankfully, this is only a real problem for one moment in one song (the very end of "Once and For All," in Act 2). Otherwise any seat in the house is a great one. Mezzanine seats are actually pretty prime real estate in this theatre - you'll see it all unobstructed. Orchestra first 3-5 rows are a little TOO close to see the whole body of action at once. If you can manage to sit in that golden section of the orchestra that is not too close, and not under the mezz overhang, then you are in for a perfect view. I prefer to hang to the right hand side of the orchestra, because Jeremy makes an audience entrance and I get cheap thrills from being near him as he walks by, but that is certainly not a requirement for a good time. ;)

The show is wonderful. My sister is really enjoying it, as is the rest of the audience. Now, I get the feeling there were a lot of super fans in the audience for opening preview, because they are erupting in applause in all the right moments, and even some unconventional ones. I have no problem with that at all, because if you are going to see a show, it might as well be with people who are excited to be there! Despite the fantastic energy from the crowd, and the great performances happening on stage, I did get the impression that the show was moving along a little slowly, but if no one else noticed, then I didn't care. Especially since I figured the cast was probably exhausted from rehearsing earlier that day, as well as the late night they probably all had the night before. Not to mention the rigorous rehearsal schedule they have been dealing with for months. I can tell they were tired, but they were still amazing. 

Pulitzer has a new song. I am not sure it is any better than the original one from Paper Mill, but it is certainly not worse. It's less silly, which is good, so Pulitzer has a little more authority by the time the scene is done. I just don't think the song lends well to the reprise in Act 2... but I don't know anything about music so I am probably wrong. John Dossett continues to be a great Pulitzer, despite being one of the many cast members seemingly suffering from vocal strain/fatigue this particular night. 

Hanna has some balls! She is no longer the squeaky voiced idiot taking notes for Pulitzer. Now she has some brains and she uses them to stand up to Pulitzer. Glad to see one of the only other female characters in the show be more assertive in a world of men!

We still have a historical inaccuracy problem with some things in the show, but it's Disney, so they get a pass for the most part (hey, if we can forgive the ending of Hunchback, we can forgive some modernish dialogue in Newsies). Medda has more lines, which is super helpful for her character. She finally has some purpose in Jack's life, and makes some sense for the overall story. Her new song is clever and fun, letting us know she is rich (so I guess that is how we can get around the race issue of the time period). The audience responded really well to this new song, so I guess it is an improvement over the old one from Paper Mill. Parts of the old song are still in the Broadway show, as the dancing girls sing it in the background when Jack sings about Katherine in the foreground. It works, but the background vocals were a little too loud and distracting so I think it took away from the important action, which is Jack sketching Katherine. Audio levels as a whole were wonky opening night, but they got it down in the next show or two.

The dancing is unbelievable, and the cast are nailing everything with grace and emphasis, so it is absolutely no surprise to me that in the middle of "Seize the Day" the audience jumps to their feet for a standing ovation. One man stood up from the second row, turned to the rest of the audience and urged us up. It took all of 2 seconds for the response because everyone was feeling it anyway, maybe just too scared to be the first to stand. But that guy did and started the chain reaction to the back of the crowd. (Was it Chris G.? I don't know. His seat was farther back, I thought). I have never seen a standing ovation in the middle of a show, let alone in the middle of a song but this cast and this show are deserving. That punctuating moment of "Seize the Day" is intense, and since it was opening preview with so many die hard fans in the audience, not to mention friends and family, we were all too happy to celebrate these kids for what felt like forever (but what was probably a minute or less). They held their positions as we cheered, and eventually the show went on, but that standing ovation is a moment I would like to burn into memory forever. It was nice to be a part of something so giving, and to see the looks on those boy's faces as we appreciated them as loudly as we could. See a bit of "Seize the Day" beginning at 1:18 in the USA Today video posted above.

Intermission comes and of course the audience is left to deal with Jeremy's big note... breathtaking, as always. My sister and friend are both super excited at this point, stating that a first act has never gone by so quickly, and thanking me over and over for being such a promoter of the show. I even get Twitter recognized in the audience and spend some time talking to internet friends. Newsies fans are a great bunch, and all of us feel the same way about this production. We waited patiently for 20 years, and now we all have something we can be proud of! All the important people are there, Harvey Fierstein, Alan Menken, Jack Feldman, Tom Schumacher, Noni White... of course Jeff Calhoun, Chris Gattelli and more I am forgetting, but lots of people who needed to see the big, positive response were there to see it. 

King of New York continues to open Act 2, except now it is more amazing than ever! At one point, a couple of the Newsies come out and play the spoons, to which the entire group follows suit. Now, I don't know why I love the spoons so much, but it might have something to do with the fact that I used to pretend I was a hobo riding the rails as a little kid, and always wanted to play the spoons... but when they come out with them and they are glistening in the stage lights, I am in heaven! This is an incredibly athletic tap number and it is just insane amounts of fun! I particularly find myself watching Evan K. while the spoon stuff is happening. He just looks so damn happy up there, I'm mesmerized by him. Everyone is having the time of their lives in this number and it really shows. 

The new love song in Act 2 is lovely, and very classically Disney. It almost feels like Aladdin's  "A Whole New World" to me in the way it is structured. The lyrics are more applicable to the story than the Paper Mill love song, but I will admit, I miss the old songs. Probably because they were also very lovely and I got used to them. I am sure I will get used to the new songs as well and wonder how I ever lived without them. The dialogue in this scene, while it makes the 16 year old girl in me squeal in delight, it pretty hard to swallow. Then again, maybe I just never dated a guy who outright wanted to talk about our relationship like Jack does with Katherine. Then again, this is a musical. The scene comes across as funny, and I am not sure it is supposed to, but it works for the moment because all the young girls are giggling anyway by this point. Pretty boys and kissing makes kids all squirmy. Ok, sometimes it makes the grown-ups squirmy too. ;)

Post-Newsies euphoria at the stage door!
Act 2, like Act 1 seems to fly by and before we know it we are on our feet again thanking not just the cast, but every person who played a part in putting this show together. I stay to see the last moments of curtain call, but from that point I race to the stage door. There is a big crowd waiting to see the cast, not surprisingly. I find a place towards the end of the line, and decide to get one of my messenger bags autographed. As the cast streams out, the crowd cheers, and one by one they make their way down the line, signing everything they can reach! When I ordered my presale tickets the special gift was explained to be the same bag the cast were going to get as a gift, but I guess they didn't get their bags yet because almost every actor asked where I got my bag, and if they were for sale. I explained to each cast member that I think they would probably get theirs on actual opening night. Great guys and girls, and you can tell they are excited to be part of something so special. My sister snapped some cell phone pics as I was getting my bag signed. Here are just a few:

Andrew Keenan Bolger - Crutchie
Jeremy Jordan - Jack Kelly
Ryan Breslin - Race
Kara Lindsay - Katherine Plumber

I wish I could say I was witty and intelligent at the stage door, but I was probably more spastic and silly. That happens when I am excited! I was pretty chatty with most of the cast, but when Jeremy gets near me I forget how to speak. All I can say is that pretty boys make me stupid, and for that I am sorry. If I was smarter I might have some great conversation to recap. :) I did let a few cast members know that I would be coming back all week. I don't think that info really sunk in until they started seeing me at the door after every show! More on that later. After the crowd dissipated from the stage door, the night pretty much wrapped up. I was so wired from the show, I could barely sleep, but I had to, because I was going to do it all over again the next day! 

A few more pics:
My bag, all signed!
Adorable picture frame available at the show. $10, which is great, but it is made of cardboard, not plastic. Still, cute!
Simply delicious poster you get for free if you preorder the OBC album. $25 for the
album & poster. You walk away with the poster, but they will mail the album later.
Word on the street is late April. I tried to buy an extra poster without buying another
album, but they wouldn't let me.