Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Richard Is Back - His Review Of ShrekThe Musical


Shrek

What is the difference between LA and yogurt? Yogurt has culture. Oh, don’t get your knickers in a twist. I am actually a New Yorker who likes L.A. for a long weekend. One of my best friends lives in LA. I have nothing against LA personally but I just don’t like when LA starts thinking it knows what is best for NYC. We DO NOT need another movie turned into a Broadway musical and passed off as a charming evening of theater. Enough with trying to extend your franchise onto our turf - got that Mr. Kaztenberg? You are killing Broadway, not saving it.

Sunday I received a call at 1:30 asking if I would like to go to the opening of Shrek The Musical at 6:00 that evening. I am not too proud to accept a last minute invitation and was not about to pass up an opportunity to spend some time with a friend – or an opportunity to gawk at celebrities - even though Shrek was not a show I planned on ever going to see. I do not pretend to be an erudite theater critic, no, I am just an opinionated New Yorker who has a very strong opinion about Schlock The Musical, I mean Shrek The Musical.

During the cab ride to the theater my friend filled me in on some of the backstage gossip and I actually started to look forward to seeing the show. Upon arriving at the theater someone was dispatched to get our tickets and my friend grabbed my hand to walk the press line. All of the photographers were calling her name as she turned her head this way and that to allow them to get a shot. Normally I step back as she does her thing but she held on tight so if you look closely at the press shots you can see my very dapper sleeve. When I do make it into the frame I usually rank a “?”on the wire service sites, which is waaay below the ‘and guest’ designation.

We make our way through the lobby, saying random hellos and proclaiming how much we are looking forward to the show and settle into our prime center-orchestra seats. The air is electrified and I begin to think that perhaps I am going to see the new “it” musical that, despite the economy being in the crapper, will have people pulling out their over-extended credit cards in a vain attempt to get tickets. The curtain rises and we see the young Shrek about to be cast out by his parents. It is the comfort of the familiar, the DreamWorks Madeline for our Proustian movie-going souls. I willingly suspend my imagination but unfortunately my brain is not numb and I can’t suspend my sense of hearing or sight. It is the over-the-top, gaudy movie studio version of what they believe a Broadway musical must look like. Shrek does not present the magic of theater and the artistry of stage craft, rather one is hit over the head with the spectacle of theme-park entertainment meant to inspire massive consumer consumption for all of the show’s products.

Many of the performers have a stellar Broadway pedigree so one wonders if they thought they were latching onto a show with a good long run so they could have a steady paycheck coming in for a while (how ever meager that paycheck might be). The leads are all extremely talented so the singing is superb (even if the songs are mediocre) and their comic timing is spot on. The references to other Broadway shows, other movies and to pop cultural in general wore thin and quickly began to sound like a college production in which the undergrads try to prove how witty and sophisticated they are. The decision to have so many characters fall into sassy, black drag-queen line delivery, hand gestures and attitude may be edgy in some of the fly-over states but it just came across as one-dimensional. As one bold-faced name quipped at the after-party, ‘Since Liza’s show was dark tonight, this is the gayest production on Broadway.’

Enough about the production, I know you are interested to find out who was there. Jeffrey Katzenberg was there as was Cameron Diaz. During intermission I headed to the men’s room and who should I find standing at the back of the line (yes, there was a line for the men’s room, though not as long as the line for the women’s room) but Cameron Diaz and two of her friends. To be fair, they were being polite in not pushing past people and didn’t realize the guys standing in front of them were actually waiting to take a leak and weren’t getting in place for an impromptu Busby Berkeley number. I mentioned that it was actually the line to the men’s room at which point they worked their way down the stairs and into the lounge area. Cameron looked fantastic and it took all my resolve to remain on my feet when she flashed her smile. Bobby Cannavale was chatting with Rosie Perez about Pineapple Express (Bobby lose the backward Kangol cap already, that look is over). Mark Indelicato, Michael Urie and America Ferrera were all very bubbly and charming. Broadway greats Andrea Martin, Hope Davis, Phylicia Rashad and Christine Ebersole were there. It was the end of the night by the time that I got to talk with Christine Ebersole and the interaction wasn’t as sparkling as others I have had with her. Given all of the facial prosthetics and rubber masks on stage it was a bit ironic to see Joan Rivers and Kathie Lee Gifford in the audience. All in all it was a typical industry event where everyone says polite things (even me) about the show, talks about how much the materials is perfect for Broadway, and asks where you are spending the holidays. I did make the mistake of asking about advanced ticket sales and glared at as though I just farted. I guess one does not discuss such crass things as reality when we are pretending we have a cash cow hit on our hands.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a benefit for the New Group Theater at which they honored Ethan Hawke (don’t ask). Ethan gave a very nice acceptance speech which was not about how deserving he was to receive the award but rather how important it is to continue to support the arts in these difficult times. He admitted he was preaching to the converted since everyone ponyed up big bucks to attend the event and that our need to help the arts and other cultural institutions continues through this bleak period. This past fall much of my charitable giving went to candidates and political causes that are important to me. My friends and I stopped exchanging holiday gifts years ago and put that money toward charitable giving. Most of the gifts I buy for my nieces and nephews, are an extension of charities I support. As ENT mentioned in a posting the other day, I’ll share with you a couple of the charities I support.

Miracle House

Miracle House, New York City's "Hope Away From Home", provides temporary housing and support services for caregivers and patients coming to New York City for critical medical treatment.

http://www.miraclehouse.org/

Gilda’s Club

Our Mission is to create welcoming communities of free support for everyone living with cancer - men, women, teens and children - along with their families and friends. Our innovative program is an essential complement to medical care, providing networking and support groups, workshops, education and social activities.

http://www.gildasclub.org/

Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition.

http://www.specialolympics.org/Special+Olympics+Public+Website/English/About_Us/default.htm

The New Group

The New Group is an artist-driven company with a commitment to developing and producing powerful, contemporary theater. While constantly evolving, we maintain an ensemble approach to all our work and an articulated style of emotional immediacy in our acting and productions. In this way, we seek a theater that is adventurous, stimulating and most importantly "now" — a true forum for the present culture.

http://www.thenewgroup.org/about.htm


Stephen Petronio Dance Company

Stephen Petronio is widely regarded as one of the leading dance makers of his generation. Acclaimed by audiences and critics alike, Stephen Petronio Company has performed in 26 countries throughout the world as well as presented over 35 New York City engagements. New music, visual art and fashion collide in Petronio’s dances producing powerfully modern landscapes for the senses. Petronio has built a body of work with some of the most talented and provocative artists in the world

http://stephenpetronio.com/about.html

8 comments:

Mooshki said...

I heard it's expected to be a huge financial success. Figures.

Go charity!

jax said...

good god, this is pathetic. wasn't Shrek for the Holidays bad enough?

palealebrew10 said...

Cameron, lose the neon red lipstick. There are very few people who can pull off that color, and you are not one of them. It's cool

selenakyle said...

That's a scary giant in the photo, and I don't mean Shrek.

Harriet Hellfire said...

Great article! But...who's your famous friend? *L*

selenakyle said...

...And, hours later, thanks for the review, Richard--didn't mean to ignore you! Thanks for the review.

selenakyle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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