I saw two Broadway musicals today, “Jersey Boys” and “110 In The Shade”. Both of them were terrific. They have all the ingredients that musicals on Broadway are supposed to have…talented performers with great voices, good stories, wonderful direction and excellent sets, lighting and costumes. The audience at both performances jumped to its feet to salute the casts and rightly so.
For those who don’t know, “Jersey Boys” is the tale of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons and “110” is based upon the play “The Rainmaker”. This revival of 110 stars Audra MacDonald and John McCullum, two true giants. This multi-racial cast is terrific in every way and I loved the effective and realistic ending (a surprise). Audra MacDonald is a magnificent actress and her voice is radiant. She has matured much past her stunning debut in Carousel, and her roles in the other shows for which she received her four Tonies. Mr. MuCullum is a seasoned Broadway veteran who exudes confidence and authenticity and can still sing, act and move on a raked stage just fine, although he must be well into his 70s. The rest of the cast is solid, too. In Jersey Boys, aside from the excellent quartet who make up the “Seasons”, there are amazing Ensemble members paying a multitude of parts in most believable ways. The audience of mostly Baby Boomers glows as it relives the music of its youth, song by song. The women, especially, get carried away, just like when they were 16, but the men seem transported, too. I loved the original Four Seasons as a teenager and young adult, and love those songs (I know every word). I am proud that one of the men in the “Seasons” is my student, but I would love it even if he weren’t there.
This is why those of us who live here live here. We put up with a lot, sometimes, to be in the Big Apple, but you cannot have another Broadway. There is only one and it is here. When you get to see the best of the best, not once but twice in one day, you can only be grateful.
Theater people inhabit a world that everyone who has not been in theater doesn’t know or understand. It takes a special kind of person to get up in front of a large group of complete strangers every day and pour out honest emotion over and over again. It takes a lot of strength to put that kind of demand on the voice and body, and those without personal discipline cannot sustain their equilibrium for 8 shows a week, weeks and months running. It is a thrill to be Broadway performer, but it is a very difficult life, let no one be fooled.
Wherever you may be, you owe it to yourself to come to Broadway or go to London’s West End at least once in your life. Although other places have theaters and shows, these two cities are the source of much of what goes out into the world as musicals, and they each have more theaters in them than do any other cities anywhere, and in both places, the mainstage theaters are concentrated in small geographic areas.
That is where only the good shows remain, as it is just too costly to keep a flop up and running. You may not like something, but it will never be because it “isn’t good”, as this is where you come to see and hear what the standards are. Sometimes, it’s just as good as it gets.