Here we are in NYC, where I am thinking of piling up all the spring clothes I brought to make a bonfire in order to keep warm. Brrrr! Temps have been in the 30’s and low 40’s, but hey, it is positively balmy compared to our February trip.
Along with all the April blossoms popping up hopefully in planters throughout the city, there are some terrific new options blooming on Broadway and at the museums. We went on a spring entertainment splurge this week and it has been so much fun!
Three things to see in NYC right now:
1. Bullets Over Broadway
God bless Ben Brantley. As a NYT theater critic, he would pretty much have to assume a persona of snobbish elitism, although something tells me this comes somewhat naturally to him. But I think the winter blues (or maybe Mia Farrow?) have gotten to him, because his desultory review of Bullets over Broadway almost dissuaded me from seeing the show.
And that would have been a mistake. Brantley (who rightly or wrongly is being assailed all around this week for his reviews) panned Bullets, dismissing it as “occasionally funny but mostly just loud” and, just in case you didn’t catch his drift, also labeled it “charm-free”, “sour” and tossed in “misanthropic” for good measure.
Oh c’mon, Ben, let the folks have some fun. Some nights we just aren’t up for the aftermath of high school shootings per The Library and, call me a lightweight, but on no night at all am I going to consider myself “entertained” by Terrence McNally’s undoubtedly fine Mothers and Sons. I know Ben is the expert, but I’m just saying, as someone who isn’t even overly-fond of musicals, I thought Bullets was a lot of fun.
Bullets had leggy dancers, the brightest strobe lights on Broadway, and Zach Braff in a decent Broadway debut. Best thing about Bullets (and here Mr. Brantley and I agree) is actor Nick Cordero as “Cheech”. If Bobby Cannavale is ever abducted by aliens, Cordero can step right in and take over all his roles.
2. Gauguin: Metamorphoses at MOMA
We dropped in at MOMA on Thursday afternoon for the Gauguin exhibit, prepared to bail if the crowds were too oppressive, but the crush wasn’t too bad. Almost too much to take in at one visit, this collection focuses on Gauguin’s two sojourns to Tahiti, the second of which culminated in his death in the Marquesa Islands in 1903 at the age of 54.
There are several walls of woodcuts and oil transfer paintings, with some paintings and wood sculpture sprinkled into the mix. Gauguin was apparently searching for a place “unspoiled by the mores of European culture” but the impression from his work is that he never found his Eden, just as he was never appreciated as an artist during his lifetime.
Three pieces I found memorable:
3. Audra McDonald: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
Audra McDonald is absolutely stunning in this one-woman snapshot of Billie Holiday in a heart-wrenching performance toward the end of a life ravaged by abuse, racial discrimination and heroin. If you have only 24 hours in Manhattan, spend two of them and whatever it costs to see this show. McDonald, a winner of multiple Tony awards and perhaps better known to the general public as the character Naomi Bennett in the television drama Private Practice is nothing short of astonishing as she melts into the role of Holiday. Yes, she sings “God Bless the Child” and “Strange Fruit”. And she does so much more, using the device of stage patter to unravel the sad, sorry path Holiday’s life took to her death from cirrhosis at the age of 44.
“Lady Day” plays at The Circle in the Square Theatre, a lovely club-like venue which is technically at 1633 Broadway, but the entrance is easier to find if you turn onto 51st Street and go toward the sign for “Wicked”. The run has been extended through August 10. Find a way to see this!
It’s been a great first week back in the city. Yes, we’ve been reminded that you don’t come to NYC for the weather – but you come here for absolutely everything else. We’re off to see another play tonight!