Broadway Breakdown Part 2

Last week, I posted reviews and video clips of the first four shows I saw this year. Here are the other four, with two video links for each: The Great Comet of 1812Amélie, In Transit, and Anastasia.

 

The Great Comet of 1812

Great Comet was already on my maybe-watch list, and I received a free ticket to see it. I was seated in the front mezzanine area, although many of the seats were in the stage area, with the actors running all around.

I’d heard mixed reviews about this show, and I think if you go in expecting it to be like a typical Broadway musical, you’ll be thrown off, because it’s not. It’s more like…avant garde performance art. Once you settle into that, and that it’s based on a 70-page section of War and Peace, it’s a lot of fun.

Josh Groban plays the lead, Pierre, a bearded older man described repeatedly as “stout.” Seeing him sing live, and knowing his dream was to do musical theater, was pretty great. He has such a resonant voice that really fills the theater. Denée Benton, who plays Natasha, was also lovely. While most of the songs weren’t stuff I’d seek out again, a few were really fun. (I might even see it again after Oak Onaodowan takes over as Pierre.) Check out “Prologue” below, which is already on Spotify. (This link cuts off the first few words, but the sound quality is better than the other link I found.)

The story is kind of strange, and the lyrics narrate some of the characters’ feelings and actions, but the show has such a lively, manic energy, you can’t help but get swept up in it. It’s a big ol’ party. It also has the coolest group of musicians I’ve ever seen. They’re dressed in full-on post-apocalyptic punk, running up and down the stairs, high-kicking and singing and dancing, while playing instruments like violin, accordion, and clarinet. Color me impressed. The only downside was when they gave out egg shakers to the audience for one song, and the lady behind me kept moving hers for the entire rest of the show. Special mentions: Or Matias (Music Director/Conductor/Piano), and violinists Andrew Mayer and Shoba Narayan.

3.5 out of 5 stars

 

Amélie

Oh, what to say about Amélie. I have seen this movie, but I didn’t like it, so I’m not sure why I thought I’d like the musical. Okay, that’s not true. I know why: Phillipa Soo. I saw her as Eliza Hamilton, and I had a feeling she’d do a great job as Amélie. And she does. She has a beautiful voice, plays the role with a quirky charm, and you can’t help but feel compassion toward her.

But it’s a weird show based on a weird movie. I didn’t love the music, and there’s no intermission. I actually got bored halfway through, which kinda sucks to admit. Adam Chanler-Berat’s portrayal of Nino is also weird and charming, and you believe they’re right for each other, even though they’re rarely on stage together, and hardly interact at all. The people around Amélie—her coworkers and her neighbor—have their own charm, and it’s sweet how much they all care about her, even though she holds herself separate. If you like the movie, you might like the show.

2.5 out of 5 stars

 

In Transit

I loved this show. For some reason, when I heard about an acapella Broadway musical, I wasn’t into the idea. But I love acapella! One of my cousins visited a couple weeks ago, and she suggested we see this, since she knows a couple people involved with it. We entered the TodayTix lottery, and even though I received an email saying we hadn’t won, a couple hours before showtime, my phone rang. It was TodayTix, asking if we still wanted to see In Transit. We did, of course!

 

We had great seats, right next to the stage. A treadmill ran through the center, mimicking a moving train. Actors and stage crew worked quickly to set props on it, changing the setting in a matter of seconds. The story follows a handful of New Yorkers as their lives intertwine on and off the subway, people trying to live freely and creatively. As creatives, my cousin and I could both identify with their stories.

As I said, it’s an acapella show, and the cast does a fantastic job providing all the music with their voices. It was so, so good. I’m sad it closed this past weekend, but glad a lot of my friends got to see it. The cast members when I went were: David Abeles, Justin Guarini, Telly Leung, Erin Mackey, Gerianne Pérez, Margo Seibert, Chesney Snow, James Snyder, Nicholas Ward, and Aurelia Williams. For the first time ever, I did the stage door thing (because my cousin wanted to see her friend), which was fun (but cold). Anyway, In Transit was great, and you should all check out the cast recording when it drops soon.

5 out of 5 stars

 

Anastasia

When Anastasia was released in theaters in 1997, I had just graduated middle school. That summer I went to see a bunch of movies with my friends, including Fifth Element, Titanic, and Face Off. I wasn’t going to see animated movies much then (although I do now), and there were a few other reasons why I specifically didn’t see Anastasia (*cough*Meg Ryan*cough*).

After my cousin bought us tickets for the musical last year, we decided I shouldn’t watch the movie first. I’d go in fresh, and watch it without the animated movie in mind. (I think this was a good idea, because we watched the movie the next day and it reminded me of all the reasons why I didn’t watch it 20 years ago.) And, since I have good luck when it comes to Broadway, our seats were upgraded! We had great seats in the center orchestra. (Thanks, Broadhurst Theatre!)

Unlike Great Comet, Anastasia is a typical Broadway musical. It’s beautifully done, with good music, gorgeous costumes, and clever set design. The ballet performance in the middle is beautiful. Caroline O’Connor, as Countess Lily, steals the show in the second act every time she’s on stage, and Mary Beth Peil, as the Dowager Empress, plays the role with grace and stunning stage presence. Ramin Karimloo steps up as the antagonist, Gleb, and he has a powerful voice, but they didn’t give him a whole lot to do. (Still, I’m so glad they wrote out Rasputin, the bat, and the magic.) And Derek Klena has perfect Don Bluth hero hair.

The show is a bit uneven, but we saw it in previews, so some things might change. I felt the first half needed more humor and dancing, but the second half delivered on those. And I do wish Anya and Dimitri had more chemistry with each other, and with their mentor, Vlad (played with a lot of charisma by John Bolton), although they both have beautiful voices.

A few more notes. Dimitri needed a “hero moment.” In the movie, he punches the bad guy in the face. The stage show needed something like that. It also needs a clearer ending. I thought Anastasia just ran away forever and as we were leaving the theater, I was like, “WTF? After all that, she just left?” My cousin assured me that the movie makes it clear she’ll be back. Still, I think fans of the movie will be pleased with the show.

3.5 out of 5 stars

 

Upcoming shows

I’ll be seeing Dear Evan Hansen in a few weeks, and Hamilton twice more this summer. (Yes, I’ve already seen Hamilton twice.)

Have you seen any of these shows? Let me know what you thought! What’s on your theater “to-watch” list?

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2 thoughts on “Broadway Breakdown Part 2

  1. We must have very similar taste in shows because I felt the same as you about both The Waitress and Amelie. I was surprised how disappointed I was with them…The Waitress being a bit bland and Amelie just being…weird. Looking forward to more shows!

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