By Mary Alderson
The Music Man
I made a quick trip to New York City with one purpose in mind: To see Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster in The Music Man before it closes. It was well worth it! A classic piece of musical theatre with two great stars. Jackman was perfect as the swindler Professor Harold Hill – so smooth and charming that you easily forget he’s a fraud. Sutton Foster is a Broadway great. Her acting is so natural and she is so comfortable, you forget she’s on stage. She seems like she is in your living room talking to you. The two of them have wonderful chemistry together.
Foster’s Marian Paroo is more fun than other Marians. During the library scene where the Professor is making a nuisance of himself, most Marians are angry and very annoyed. Foster shows us a Marion who pretended to be totally annoyed, but then would turn away in an attempt to suppress her grin. This Marian is fun, although she is obviously trying to maintain her prim and proper exterior. Thus, her switch to supporting and liking Harold is not as abrupt and more believable. She also does more to show us her real concern for little Winthrop, so we can easily believe she is supportive of the boys’ band when she sees Winthrop coming out of his shell.
And then, after a show filled with spirited singing and dancing, Jackman and Foster give an encore performance of high-energy tap dancing.
The Music Man is probably the musical I have seen on stage most often – and I enjoy it every time. It also includes the song “Til there was You”: the only musical theatre piece covered by the Beatles!
Stephen Sondeim’s birthday party musical about being 35 and single has been around since 1970. But the current version on Broadway has undergone a gender swap. Rather than a male Bobby, we have a female Bobbie, with her facing the same issues of being over-the-hill and still single at 35. Bobbie is played by Katrina Lenk who I saw on a previous trip starring in The Band’s Visit. The great Patti LuPone plays Joanne and is, of course, masterful in the role. I was hoping just a little that someone would let their phone ring or perhaps attempt to take a photo, so I could see the famous LuPone reprimand in action. But everyone was on their best behaviour and she didn’t need to stop the show.
Subtitled “Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive”, this play is a hilarious comedy about what smart women have to do when the President is an idiot. With a cast of very funny women, this is one of those plays where you are laughing so much at one line that you miss the next funny line. Rachel Dratch of Saturday Night Live fame (remember Debbie Downer?) keeps us in stitches with her physical comedy. Comedian Lia DeLaria is hilarious, as are Julie White, Lilli Cooper, and Suzy Nakamura. Vanessa Williams is the perfect First Lady, trying so hard to be proper – even her Crocs had high heels! And a pleasant surprise is dancer Julianne Hough who is also super hilarious.
One thing stood out in all three shows. Is “corpsing” in style? In theatre, corpsing is when an actor loses their composure and laughs or giggles in a comedy scene. It’s called corpsing because the absolute worst time to get the giggles would be when playing a corpse. In The Music Man, Sutton Foster and Hugh Jackman would grin at each other and start to laugh. Then in Company, some of the birthday party goers would have an extended laugh and lower their heads. In POTUS, there were several instances where the cast would be laughing at each other in that hilarious comedy.
The audience loves it when characters corpse and the Broadway audiences, which tend to laugh more and clap louder than other audiences, really enjoyed it. I can’t help but think some of the corpsing was deliberate, just to add to the fun.