Jesus Christ Superstar, Peter and the Starcatcher, and the Best Broadway Shows of 2012

A week spent at the theater may be called decadence by some, but I call it a dream come true, especially when that week is spent seeing four of Broadway's acclaimed productions just days after the 2012 Tony Awards. The lights, chaos and hoards of tourists that inhabit Times Square can typically be avoided by those lucky New Yorkers who don't work or live in its vicinity. Broadway, however, is an attraction that makes all the shoving (and way too much stranger-touching) of Times Square a little less horrifying. 

My mother and I started the week out with Peter and the Starcatcher, written by Rick Elice and directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers. Winner of Best Scenic Design, Costume Design, Lighting Design, and Sound Design of a Play, this show transported the audience into another world and another way of thinking. I was a bit nervous that the Monday night show right after the Tony's would be soured by hungover performances, and maybe even a day off for winner of Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play, Christian Borle ... but wow, were my worries unnecessary.



The audience cheered when the ensemble first entered the stage, and when Borle dashed on as the hilariously unique and unforgettable Black Stache, the audience again broke into an uproarious burst of applause. Not at all meant for children, the show is not the retelling of Peter Pan, but rather a smart, unexpected proposition for how the well-known characters of Neverland came to be. All this is served up with more than enough intelligent double entendre and well-placed flatulent humor to keep you laughing all night long. The production, direction and design are clever, engaging, and were so loved by the audience that they immediately leaped out of their seats at curtain call. We all clapped so hard that Tinkerbell couldn't have died even if she had wanted to do.

Night two with Jesus Christ Superstar continued my delight in the magic of live theater. Powerful from the start, this show blew my mind with the supernatural voices that emanated from Tony nominee Joshua Young as Judas and Paul Nolan as Jesus. The production was a stunning excitement, with tunes that stayed planted in my head for days afterwards.



A completely different experience faced me at Wednesday afternoon's matinee of Other Desert Cities. In case you were wondering, the rumors are indeed true that the elderly attend Broadway's matinees, but it was a delight sharing the theater with a generation that forced me to walk much slower than my usual pace. In the minutes before the show I sat (just three rows in front of NBC Smash's Jack Davenport and four rows in front of Allstate's Mayhem Man, Dean Winters), listening to the surrounding elders chat on with complete strangers about the many Broadway hits that they all had seen. Theirs is clearly the generation keeping Broadway alive. 



What a contrast Other Desert Cities was after Starcatcher and Superstar. No song, no dance, no multimedia tricks adorn this glorious exposition of the craft of acting. Stockard Channing, Stacy Keach, Thomas Sadoski, and 2012 Tony winner Judith Light sent talent sparks flying through this very serious, yet impressive family drama that was charmingly marked by the script additions made by an older woman near the front row who loudly clarified for her perhaps hard-of-hearing friend that the Nancy referenced by Channing's character Polly Wyeth was "NANCY REAGAN! SHE'S TALKING ABOUT NANCY REAGAN!" Even Channing, poised and polished actor that she is, broke the moment for a split second to turn her head towards this voluminous voice. 

After this superb dramatic feast, my mother and I decided to get ourselves in the British mood by sharing a late afternoon pint at the nearby Cock and Bull. The boisterous British vibe of the pub was the perfect preparation for Thursday night's One Man, Two Guv'nors starring the surprise 2012 Tony Winner James Corden. In stitches during the entire first act, I was impressed by Corden's performance. I was also tickled by the healthy serving of audience interaction, just another step in the  rapid evolution of mainstream  theater. I was not as in love with this show as I was with the week's earlier offerings, though to be fair, even an avid theater lover like myself is a little exhausted by day four of consecutive theater-going. 



Of course, throughout the week the music of cell phone ringers invaded the soundscape of each show, though interestingly not a single one of the shows incorporated cell phones into their design or script: not surprising given the time frame of the shows. (1855, 1833, 2002 and 1963 respectively.) Perhaps as more members of our generation become the writers for the theater, more scripts will include the constant flow of Facebook updates, emails, texts and (the increasingly endangered) phone calls that typically accompany our daily lives.

A resounding success, this theater marathon reminded me not only how impressive both the revival and new plays hitting Broadway can be, but also how important it is to spread out one’s theater experiences. Four days in a row of theater turned out to be just as much a dream come true as it was a test of endurance—a bittersweet endeavor. Had my mother and I not loved the theater so much we may have abandoned ship, but how glad I am that we stayed the course.

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Pilar Isabella

Pilar grew up in an adorable small town, and has now migrated to the city in pursuit of the ephemeral and mythical career of being an Artist. (yes. Capital "A" included.) Having graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Music, a minor in Theater and a minor in Dance, she relishes the intersections of all these art forms. She also believes in the importance of live theater, and increasing the accessibility/enjoyment of the performing arts for people of her generation and others.

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