If you are like me, you know the many problems you can run into if you want to go to a Broadway show. First of all, you are shelling out big money (unless you choose one of the shows offered on CollegeTix). And then there’s choice—do you want to see something serious and dramatic, or a light-hearted musical? And they’re often so long. And even if the music is fantastic, the plot is often simplistic and frankly, under-written. And what if you get a show that’s a complete dud? That’s the worst!
Thankfully, there’s a solution for all your Broadway desires, and you won’t have to fork over a dime. Broadway in Bryant Park, a tradition started seven years ago, heads into its eighth year, once again promising a healthy sampling of Broadway’s best for hungry New Yorkers.
The first event of the summer took place today in the sweltering heat (with a few drops of rain), but no malaise was to be found on the performers. Bryant Park already has a number free events worth checking out, but its biggest is easily the collection of musicals it puts on during the summer. Here’s how it works: every Thursday at 12:30, four different musicals are slated to perform a group of songs songs from their work, with the real actors from the show. Want to see both Chicago and The Lion King? Go July 22nd. Like the music of Hair but don’t care for the story? Watch three songs from it on August 5th.
Today’s first round featured a slew of great shows. The first was Nunsense, a strange but fortunately rousing musical about nuns in Hoboken (and like all residents of New Jersey, they have very little to do in terms of fun, so they must make up their own). The five performers (in full nun costumes, despite the heat), made great fun of both religion and their practice, while at the same time avoiding any sort of truly offensive material. The show is back in New York for its 25th anniversary, and might be a small show worth checking out.
Of the four performances, the cast of Promises, Promises came out with a lackluster vibe. The revival, which features music from Burt Bacharach and Hal David, might have a lot of spunk on page (the story is based off of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment), but the cast seemed to feel like they were in a Sunday afternoon rehearsal than a performance. While the musical stars Will & Grace star Sean Hayes and Wicked star Kristin Chenoweth, the two skipped out to let their understudies perform “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” and seeing their lack of enthusiasm for anything, I’m still trying to figure out how or when they fell in love in the first place.
Thankfully, the back end of the show took off with an extended performance of Stomp. The
noise crew performed their first number by only the banging of brooms on the stage, and the second with only their hands and feet. Needless to say, these performers are truly talented, and make for an experience unlike any other group on Broadway. Unlike the cast of Promises, Promises, the cast of Stomp seemed truly excited to be on the stage, interacting and joking with the audience (though not through words but actions), making sure we all had a good time.
That good time was brought to a close by the Tony-award winning play In the Heights, which performed three numbers from their rock-blasted group. It didn’t hurt that the music of the show is filled with heavy beats, smart lyrics, and a hard rock edge, but the cast sang their hearts out, staying in character, even when they didn’t have to. As someone who hasn’t seen the show, it convinced me to somehow find tickets for this summer.
In the end though, Broadway in Bryant Park is just a sampling, and creates an atmosphere where each show can display their energy and spirit, as well as talent. For those who work in Midtown, it makes for the perfect lunch break relaxation. If you are a fan of Broadway, it lets you see all of your favorites together at once. And if you are just a curious passerby, it will certainly pique your interest.
Peter Labuza, CC’11