In the darkness the trees are full of starlight (henwy) wrote,
In the darkness the trees are full of starlight

Sing and dance and kick up your feet

I'm not sure if I mentioned this, but I actually got around to doing something I've wanted to do ever since arriving back in NJ years and years ago. When I was in Chicago, one of the nice fringe benefits is I would get really cheap theater tickets for the shows there. They called it the Balcony Club and it basically offered discounted passes for students. You had to sit up in the nosebleed section, but you ended up only paying like $20 a show, if that. It was where I saw Urinetown which I still love, and also where I ended up missing Spamalot despite having a ticket because I couldn't bear the company I would have had to endure.

When I got back to Jersey, I really wanted to continue going to musicals and at the time I considered The Papermill Playhouse which is located in Milburn (where the restaurant used to be and where one of my sisters now lives) and also where I had once gone to see Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. I think there was also a school trip when I was in elementary school where they all trucked us there by bus to watch A Christmas Carol, though I could be mistaken there. The yearly subscriptions seemed pricey but the real problem was I couldn't find anyone to go with me. I always thought it was a ridiculous irony that despite the fact that I now knew more gay men then in the entire rest of my life combined, I couldn't find a single theater buddy among them. Of course, since I'm always railing against people perpetuating stupid stereotypes, I guess I can't really be too annoyed about it. What was sort of disappointing in an ironic way is I even went on Meetup searching for a group which went to Broadway shows and could only find 'The Gay Man's Broadway Club'. I guess I could have contacted them anyway, but it just didn't seem right. I clearly didn't seem to meet the prerequisites and I would really be screwed if there were some sort of secret handshake to get in.

So years passed and I more or less gave up on the idea. I would occasionally send a shout out to people I knew to see if newfound interest had sprung up but was always disappointed. Around a month back, I was grousing and griping on facebook about the lack of anyone interested in going to see musicals with me. I had just discovered that this year was the 20th anniversary of Les Miserables and that the papermill had had the show there earlier in the year. The fact that I had missed it spawned some righteous musical nerd rage. So I was bitching about there being no one willing to go with me and surprisingly I got a response from someone interested. I had met Karen only once through meetup a couple of years ago when she had come to the BoardgamesNJ meetup back when Lori was still running things. She had mostly been interested in Scrabble, which really wasn't what most of us were interested in and she eventually stopped coming. At some point she added me on facebook and I never made the connection, mostly because by that point my facebook friends list was a cluster@#%^ of chaos thanks to playing too many stupid facebook games. One of these days I still need to go back and just toss out everyone I don't recognize. If facebook didn't make dropping people so damn painful from an interface point of view, I would have done more of it already. Anyway, she said she was interested and after some chats through PM, a plan was set in motion. We would get a 3-show subscription to the Papermill and see how it went. In the end the three shows we decided on were Newsies, Boeing Boeing, and Damn Yankees.

I had seen Newsies as a movie at some point in the past, enough to have hazy recollections about it. About the only character I could recall is it had the guy who played Vinnie from Doogie Howser in it. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, it also had Christian Bale in the starring role. The fact that his career subsequently boomed has brought a whole hoard of new fans to Newsies, which pretty much bombed at the box office. It's now a cult favorite and there are hoards of fanatical women who love the movie and fantasize about having a 17 year old Christian Bale's babies. I'm just speculating about the latter. Anyway, this cult fandom has made it so that Newsies is the most requested Disney property to be converted to a stage musical and a couple of years earlier the wheels were set in motion. Harvey Fierstein was tapped to do the writing to convert the show and a musical was born. There were a couple of major changes, including the addition of a love story which wasn't present in the original because Harvey believes every single musical needs one to give the audience something to root for. The finished product would be premiering at the Papermill and Karen and I had tickets.

On the day of the show, I drove up to Milburn a bit early and went to my sister's house to visit. I had planned to spent at least a hour there but last week we were still in the midst of monsoon season and it made traffic a monumental pain in the ass. I ended up arriving at her house only a hour before show time and so I basically puttered around there for half a hour before trekking over to the theater. I had last been to the Papermill a few years ago but honestly I didn't remember a single thing about it. I forked over $9 for parking right next to the theater because I didn't want to wander about and give Murphy's Law a chance to kick me in the ass. My mom had pressed an umbrella on me at Connie's house, which ended up being a mistake since I mostly just carted the damn thing about rather than using it. When it came time when I actually wanted to use it, I found that at some point I had broken the damn thing.

Here's a shot of the Newsies poster outside of the theater.

And here's a picture of the theater itself.

I went inside and spent some time just milling about. Karen called and said she was running a bit late but ended up making it with around 5 minutes to spare. We made our way to our seats and the show began. One thing I have to say about the Papermill is that there really are no bad seats there. We ended up paying for the premium orchastra seats but it probably wasn't really necessary like at larger theaters where the people on stage look like ants from the nosebleed seats or there are things like pillars and other obstructions. They reminded us quite pointedly that pictures were verboten as was any form of recording device and so all I have to show here are a couple of official pictures I found in news articles online.

The production was pretty freaking amazing. They were wheeling around these gigantic sets that one reviewer dubbed as being 'metal Erector Set-like', which you can see from the picture is pretty accurate. The entire show reminded me a lot of West Side Story since there was way more dancing and acrobatic elements then I was expecting. I don't see a lot of back flips and tap dancing in the musicals I've seen recently, mostly because I imagine if Colm Wilkinson tried it, he'd probably break a hip. Besides, it just wouldn't seem quite right if Jean Valjean was doing a soft shoe followed by cartwheels.

I had meant to rewatch the Disney movie version before seeing the stage production and had actually gotten around to downloading a copy, but never got around to actually watching it. I'm not sure if that was a good or bad thing, but it let me see the musical with mostly fresh eyes since I don't recall much about the movie. The songs were catchy and everything was done as far as plot and pacing. I found the accents a bit obnoxious after a while but I've always found the whole New York'ian accent grating. I was also surprised at just how many kids they had in the cast as they must've emptied dance and ballet studios looking for teenage booys.

The aforementioned love story addition also worked well IMO. It was folded nicely into the story and didn't seem out of place at all. Frankly, I'm not sure what they would have filled the time with if it wasn't there and it made for a nice piece of plot integration, giving it a more personal air rather than being strictly about the dollars and cents. They ended up making her Pulitzer's daughter and a news reporter trying to help the newsies by getting their story out despite the embargo. It manages to put her character right into the thick of the conflict and allows for a synergism. All of a sudden I have Billy Joel's 'Uptown Girl' in my head.

Karen and I spent some time talking about other musicals during intermission and I was telling her how I really wanted to get a chance to see Avenue Q. Who doesn't want to see see slightly obscene puppets singing songs about racism and pr0n? She seems interested based on some recent PMs and so there's a shot I'll get to cross that musical off my 'To See' list as well.

When Newsies ended we exited to find that the rain had picked back up. It was at this point that I discovered that piece of shit umbrella I had been carrying around the entire night didn't work right when I actually needed it. We took a couple pictures in front of the movie poster outside.

I was reading some reviews of Newsies in local papers online and discovered to my chagrin that we went on the wrong date. We should have waited a week because then there would have been an intermission show as well.

Three women and six teenage girls were escorted from the theater during intermission of "Newsies" on Thursday night, after patrons complained about a scuffle and general "unruly" behavior, a theater spokesman said today.

"There was an altercation, something about poking another patron in the back," the Paper Mill’s Shayne Miller said. "They were being rowdy and loud, talking on their cell phones in the theater."

Several patrons complained the group was drinking. Miller said house manager Bill Fergus intervened during intermission.

"When they were asked to leave, they said ‘We have no intention of moving,’ " said Miller, who did not attend the performance but had read the house manager’s report.

Although the women would not follow Fergus’ request, when a uniformed officer asked them to leave the theater, they obliged.

And they say this is only the third time in 28 years that they've needed to call security to toss people out. *sigh* I miss all the fun.
Tags: broadway, karen, meetup, musicals: avenue q, musicals: joseph and the technicolor dre, musicals: les miserables, musicals: newsies, musicals: spamalot, musicals: urinetown, papermill playhouse, pictures, stereotypes

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