Month: March 2014

Opening night of previews for “If/Then” on Broadway with Idina Menzel

If/Then on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theater

I read in a New York Times piece about the pros and cons of Broadway previews that reviewers should withhold judgment until the true opening night. So much can change between the first night of previews and the first “real” performance of the show’s run. Some people take the near-guarantee of tweaks and changes as a reason not to see a show in previews — you’ll only want to see it again after it’s been frozen (no, not this Frozen) for opening night, to make sure you got the full experience. And who has the money for seeing a show twice? Honestly, I hardly have the money for seeing a show once.

But I’m still a huge supporter of attending previews, particularly the very first night. I can’t pretend to know how the cast feels, but from this audience member’s perspective, it feels like you’re all in it together, like you’re involved in the show’s process in a very real way, like you want everyone to succeed just as much as they do. It feels like you’re a part of the show’s history. The energy in a theater during previews is kinetic. I felt it when I saw opening night of previews for Singing in the Rain in London, and I felt it again on opening night of previews for Cinderella on Broadway.

That energy is amplified to some ridiculous power when the musical’s leading lady a) performed just days ago at the Oscars, b) has been all over social media lately, and c) is a Tony award-winning actress returning to the Broadway stage after nearly a decade. This is all to say, I couldn’t help myself buying a ticket to see the first night of previews for If/Then the Musical. And when I see a great show — cast, crew, and Emily Posts of theatre etiquette forgive me — I have to write about it, opening night of previews or not. I’ll try to be vague.

“If/Then” is something special, and I would definitely recommend seeing it. The cast is amazing: The applause Idina Menzel received after her sudden entrance was well earned. (The cheering went on for minutes, no exaggeration. Her opening line of “Hey, it’s me” was all too appropriate and apparent.) Anthony Rapp’s voice transports me back instantly to listening to the “Rent” soundtrack, and his character was like a perfect Mark Cohen in ten years (and in a parallel universe, maybe). And LaChanze, James Snyder, and Jason Tam — three performers I wasn’t familiar with before tonight — were incredible. Really incredible. The chorus members are also talented, and so versatile. As my friend rightly pointed out, there wasn’t one sour note. Beautiful staging and choreography.

When the show was on in Washington, DC, I read reviews that said the plot was too confusing, and difficult to follow. The Washington Post even called it a “winning blob, with many kinks to be worked out.” Both my friend and I had no trouble following the intersecting storylines at tonight’s performance; I’d be curious to know what “kinks” have been worked out, because the entire show seemed seamless.

I have a few qualms with the overall plot and how much exposition was given so quickly in the opening song — probably one of the “kinks” that was worked out, based on this New York Times article where the lead producer is quoted as saying that the first 20-25 minutes is where they think people suffered plot confusion in the DC tryout. I also feel strongly about one major event that takes place in the second act. But I’m not one for spoilers, and my concerns aren’t enough to prevent me from forcing all my friends and loved ones to go see the show. I mean, Idina Menzel sings this. Listen to it and tell me you don’t feel completely heart-bombed afterward. Go on. I’ll wait.

Actually, I won’t. For this tired theatre-goer, it’s time for bed. But if you see the show, if you want to see the show, or and especially if you saw the DC tryout and the Broadway run and can comment on the changes, then leave your thoughts in the comments. Until then, goodnight!

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Sights and sounds of the New York Times Travel Show

The New York Times Travel Show is still bustling today at the Javits Center until 5:00 pm, with lots of sweepstakes, giveaways, performances, travel ideas, and free cheese (thanks, Vermont!). I worked the DK booth on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, talking to people about where they were planning to travel in 2014, and pinning their locations on a map.

Here's my pin on the Florida Keys, where Matt and I are headed in July. This was early in the show -- Cuba and the Keys were starting to fill up with travelers' pins by the time I left the show yesterday.

Here’s my pin on the Florida Keys, where Matt and I are headed in July. This was early in the show — Cuba and the Keys were starting to fill up with travelers’ pins by the time I left the show yesterday.

My coworker pins our planned business trip to Vegas for the ALA summer conference.

Jules pins our planned business trip to Vegas for the ALA summer conference.

By the end of my shift on Saturday, Europe was the clear winner. Lots of people are headed to Italy and the UK.

By the end of my shift on Saturday, Europe was the clear winner. Lots of people are headed to Italy and the UK.

My favorite part about being an exhibitor at the travel show is talking to people about where they’ve traveled. One man lamented that he couldn’t place his pin in our map because he was going to the South Pole on a government expedition — he ended up putting his pin just under the map, which led to fantastic conversations with anyone who I saw looking at it, puzzled. Kids stopped by with their parents to pin where they were going on vacation (everywhere from Aruba to Australia to Cape Verde), then stopped by later in the show to make sure their pin was still there.

When I did get to wander around as a consumer, I was both surprised and thrilled at the level of engagement the booths are providing this year. There’s a silent auction for charity, lots of food and drinks, even a rock wall for the kids to climb in the adventure section. Here’s a sampling of the sights and sounds of the show:

A man carving a sand castle at the Atlantic City booth

A man carving a sandcastle at the Atlantic City booth. Just before I saw him doing this, he had stopped by the DK booth looking for chocolate, prompting the only time in my life I will ever say the sentence, “The chocolate man is carving a sandcastle in Atlantic City.”

The Mexico booth hosted a mariachi band on Friday evening.

The Mexico booth hosted a mariachi band on Friday evening which gathered a good crowd.

And speaking of music, there was a steel-drum band at the St. Kitts booth right behind DK on Saturday, which led to some unintended dancing on my part…

I love the vibrancy of this show, and all the traveling it inspires.

A brightly colored pillar at the South Africa booth caught my eye from across the pavilion.

A brightly colored pillar at the South Africa booth caught my eye from across the pavilion.

Another shot from the DK booth, this time of the jacket image on our Rough Guide to Central America.

Another shot from the DK booth, this time of the jacket image on our Rough Guide to Central America.

This guy was hanging out at China's booth...

This guy was hanging out at China’s booth…

...probably planning to grab after-show drinks with his much-photographed cohort over in the Arctic.

…probably planning to grab after-show drinks with his much-photographed cohort over in the Arctic.

This gentleman from South Korea and I danced a bit on Saturday afternoon.

My new friend from South Korea and I danced a bit on Saturday afternoon.

I hope this woman nonchalantly running from a flamingo swarm at the Bahamas booth was able to escape.

I hope this woman running from a flamingo swarm at the Bahamas booth was able to escape.

And, of course, my favorite view from the Javits at the end of a long day of work…

The outside world!

The outside world!