Before arriving in NYC, I heard from numerous people that I had to see THE BOOK OF MORMON. It won numerous Tony awards in 2011 and is the most sought after ticket on Broadway. I went to the official web site, called American Express concierge services and even spoke with a friend of a friend who works with the show all with no luck of getting a ticket. I finally secured a ticket by an on line search and paid 60% over the face value of the ticket to sit in a seat with an “obstructed view.” I was told the show was written by South Park creators Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez and was about Mormon elders that do not get their first choice in field assignment. As I settled in, the excitement was palpable. The show began and the dialogue, singing and dancing was high energy and engaging. There were jokes and coy expressions that made the audience laugh. However as I listened closely, I became uncomfortable with the language. I can appreciate humor, satire and sarcasm, but as a God-fearing, southern male I was uneasy with the direction of the musical. It seemed to be blasphemous and I debated leaving, but I stayed. I was somewhat comforted by the conclusion of the show in that it had a unified religious message. Judging by the continuous roar of applause, I knew I was in the minority on my thoughts of this musical.
The second show I attended was SPIDERMAN TURN OFF THE DARK. I know that the purist do not consider this fine theatre, but as an avid comic book follower I was overflowing with excitement. The premise of the show is exactly as it has been done in print and film. The actors were realistic in their portrayals and stayed true to Stan-Lee’s vision. The true excitement came form the high flying Spiderman. The athletic ability of Spiderman seemed truly super-hero like. I felt like a kid watching the real life character with his web zooming overhead. The collective gasps of the audience confirmed that this is why we came. I left the show walking taller and feeling stronger.
My last show was decided at the ticket booth. I was torn between a Street Car Named Desire and CLYBOURNE PARK. The attendant said that Clybourne was a 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner and had been nominated for four 2012 Tony awards. Those accolades made me chose Clybourne. The background is the same neighborhood as Raisin in the Sun and details the selling of a home by a white family to a black one and then 50 years later the same home being sold back to a white couple by black owners. The 1959 dialogue seemed to be true to the time. The actors were effective in their ability to resonate the tension surrounding gentrification and ultimately white flight. The nuances and lines, delivered by the performers, allowed the audience to include their personal life experiences with race to form their opinion on what was happening on stage. By contrast, the 2009 scene was a constant, in your face, harsh conversation that left little for personal interpretation or reflection. I felt as though there were opportunities to really address today’s issues of race, but they were never realized. I left the theatre yearning for more…more answers, more discussion and more hope.
6/10/12 Update-Clybourne Park wins the Tony Award for Best Play!!