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27 April 2006 @ 09:09 pm
NYC part deux, day 1  
Looks like I've got Internet access! Yay!

I'll cut this entry for your friends list space...

Ah, the joys of redeye flights.

We took off in our flight with Song (owned by Delta) at 10pm and touched down at JFK around 6am, local time. Flight was pleasant enough, but I warn you - if you watch a trailer on your personal TV and the sound is gawd-awful and you can't understand a word of it, don't let the fact that you really want to see the movie deter you from realizing that the movie will sound that way too. Tried to watch the first fifteen minutes or so of Syriana, and got my money back. Jen slept for a couple hours, I slept for about one.

No towncar this time - we took the subway from the airport to the area of the hotel and walked the rest of the way. Aside from having to physically lift our luggage above the turnstiles, that went very smoothly - and cost us a LOT less than any of the alternatives. Yay!

For the curious (including my future self), the hotel is The Courtyard at the Marriott, located at 3 E 40th St - caddycorner from the NY Public Library. We're about two blocks from Park Ave, and about a block and a half down Park from the hotel we stayed at on the Honeymoon.

Got in and the hotel didn't have our room ready. No big surprise - check-in is officially at 3, and we got there around 8. So we checked our luggage and hit the town. Which is to say, we walked and walked and walked for a very long time trying to figure out what we wanted to do while we waited for the TKTS booth to open and our hotel room to be ready. Walked past the TKTS booth and saw that they'd open at 11.

Breakfast at a place called Apple......crud, apple something. Not cruller, or fritter, or jacks.....nope, it's gone. Which is a shame - they were really good. Oh well.

Walked past the TKTS booth again - it's now about 10:30, and we're surprised to not see a line. Turns out they'll be opening at 3. The list of shows will be posted about 2:30. Okayfine, we'll continue stalling.

Walked and walked. Kabobs for lunch. Shopped a little. Got in line at 1:30. Stood in line until 2:30, when we saw the list -- and were thoroughly unimpressed. Most of what we wanted to see is in previews right now and selling out every night, but it still would have been nice to see something on the list that interested us that we hadn't already seen. Called Mom up to see if she'd heard of the two that we were halfway interested in, and she hadn't. Decided after all that to just get out of line and see if there were tickets for either of the two shows we really wanted to see, and/or if there would be student rush or something. Walked up to the box office at the Richard Rogers Theatre, and got two tickets for tonight's Tarzan.

Walked back to the hotel, got checked in, crashed on the bed and napped for two hours. Got up, got out the door, walked back to the theatre (stopping by Best Buy to pick up a network cable that we later found we didn't need - but returns work, so no worries), got more kabobs, and prepared to enjoy the show.

Turns out we didn't need to prepare. Enjoyment wasn't really on the playbill.

I'll warn you now - here there be spoilers. If you want to see the play, I recommend you reconsider. If you still want to, close this window and come back after you've seen it. If you don't care, read on.

I'll start with what we liked, since it's a much shorter list than the other. The orchestrations were really good. The two lead gorilla actors Kerchak and Kala - were really good. The experience of looking over one section and realizing that Phil Collins was in the audience (probably next to the director, although we wouldn't recognize him nearly as easily) was cool. The opening sequence was wonderful, as was the scrim and lighting that set the mood before the show started.

Then things went downhill.

Now the bad: a condensed list. Most of the new songs weren't great. Part of what made Phil's music work in the movie version was that they were background mood setters -- nobody specific was singing. Obviously that wasn't the case here, and I kinda got the impression that he doesn't do great giving specific characters voice in song.

Major elements were removed. Now, I'm not just talking about the elephants (if everybody's being played by a human in costume, I can see that as being awkward to do without getting unintentional laughs)...I'm talking about fundamental things. Like vine swinging. Not once did they even try to create the illusion that someone left one vine and picked up on another. This is maybe the one single most recognizable trait about the Tarzan character aside from his yell, and they left it out. Come to think of it, they also left out the idea of trees - lord knows how those vines were supported, you never saw a trunk anywhere. The set was primarily a box lined with vine-like-things, with holes hidden behind the vines so people on wires could leap out from the middle of the wall. There weren't any interesting things done with levels (they're in a jungle - and it all takes place on the ground?). Anything from the movie that you had to think about for a second or two was removed and explained away with dialogue - and they added a lot of inappropriate humor that specifically went over kids' heads. Jane should not have been focusing on Tarzan's package for three minutes or so, for example. In fact, her introduction involved a strange sequence including the jungle's plant life ripping off her skirt and opening her blouse, then her spending several lines talking about how tittilating it was. They used the wires too much, but not for the right things -- at no point do you ever get the impression that they're in a jungle - they're just highlighting that they can do wirework, and therefore should.

One of my biggest problems involved the ending, or lack thereof. In the movie, the ending made sense -- Tarzan had already taught Jane how to say "Jane stay with Tarzan" in gorilla, so she repeated it and everybody knew what had happened. In the play, they removed that lesson, so she leaves for the boat then runs back on stage and says "Tarzan!" He says "Jane!" She replies with a relieved "exactly," then he hooks her up to his flight harness and they rise into the reprise of "Two Hearts, One Family". It makes no sense whatsoever.

They seem to have done that kind of thing several times - just outright ignored that characters need motivation for anything, or that story elements have purpose. For example, Tarzan's fight with the leopard in the movie is punctuated by Kerchak's failure to beat him. That's the whole purpose of the fight -- Kerchak falls, Tarzan saves him, and their relationship is complicated by the human succeeding where the tribe leader failed. In the play, Kerchak isn't involved at all - there's just a fight sequence with no real oomph behind it and Kerchak lets Tarzan back in the tribe.

Similarly, the Trashing the Camp sequence begins because Terk accidentally discoveres that breaking stuff makes fun noises, and s/he (unclear in the movie, male in the play) is so wrapped up in the rhythm that s/he starts to scat. In the play, there's no such motivation -- Terk shows up and starts to scat, then gorillas show up and start tearing down the tent and throwing furniture around. Notice -- nothing that makes any sounds at all. Oh, and they're singing the 'N Sync version, with the modern voicing and rewind/rapping effects that make no sense in the context of the play's timeframe.

All in all, it felt like the producers went into this with the Disney straight-to-video-sequel mentality, asking themselves what worked with the Lion King stage version so they could try to duplicate it, and completely missing the point of why those things worked when they did. We saw the touring production of Lion King at OCPAC last year and I remember Erik listing all sorts of things he hated about it. Erik, let me tell you that every last one of them are here in full force - and they're often worse.

I'm not sorry we saw it. It was a lot cheaper than it will be when it officially opens in a week and a half, and if we'd skipped it we'd be spending a lot of time wondering what we missed out on - and this show isn't worth that kind of concentration. What I am sorry about is how much potential was wasted with this particular production. With just a little more effort in some areas, they could have had something great here and missed the boat -- it's hard to start with Tarzan and end up with less than awe-inspiring choreography, for example, but they managed to do it.

This is the first show Jen and I have seen in New York and been disappointed by. Here's hoping it's the last.
Nentikobe - a work in progress: dust specknentikobe on April 28th, 2006 08:10 am (UTC)
I think it's better to be disappointed by a show in NY, than not be in NY at all :)

Have a wonderful time. Don't worry about all of us jealous little people. Nope. Not us.

:) *hug*
(Anonymous) on April 28th, 2006 01:32 pm (UTC)
Corretions. :)
Jen here - Can't remember my password and don't want to change it right now. So...

We ate at the Applejack Diner. (REALLY)

Since we had so much free time before TKTS opened but not enough to go back to the hotel and come back, we ended up at McDonald's for a Coke and Fries to kill some time before getting in line.

After we got Tarzan tickets we got "Lunch" as we headed to the hotel for a nap.

As for the play. One of my biggest problems was that until they got to the jungle, it was AMAZING. The pre-curtain set was wonderfully done and the shipwreck scene made me cry. Then they dropped me and didn't care that they did that. grrr. Oh well. I'm not sorry we saw it.
lindasings on April 29th, 2006 08:21 pm (UTC)
So Sorry!
It looks like "Well" should have been your choice. This from the NY Times:

The saddest phenomenon of the spring theater season probably isn't the emptiness of that revival starring the lovely movie star. Or the latest musical about those lovable blood-sucking creatures of the night.

It's that those shows — and indeed most others on Broadway — are selling more tickets than Lisa Kron's immensely endearing play "Well," which is struggling to survive at the Longacre Theater.

In short, "Well" is not well. Since opening on March 30, it has played to between 25 and 30 percent of capacity, despite some of the best reviews of the season. Most Broadway shows need to play to 65 to 70 percent of capacity to break even.

It's hard to imagine that "Well" would not benefit from affectionate word of mouth. Ms. Kron's play is a warm, ingeniously constructed comedy about the troublesome task of translating life experience into art, and about the equally tough challenge of negotiating the emotional minefield of mother-daughter relations. But smack at the top of the list of reasons to recommend "Well" is the flawless authenticity of the performance by Jayne Houdyshell, who plays Ms. Kron's mother, Ann.