So one of the many joys of living in New York is the ability to go see Broadway theatre on a regular basis. And after you go, it is a theatregoing tradition to distill everything you've just seen, which includes months of hard work by dozens if not hundreds of generally talented professionals, into a few short sentences so that you can quickly answer the question "How was the show?" when asked by your friends.
It is also theatregoing tradition to offer these overly biased, simplified opinions up without actually being asked for them, which is what I'm about to do. :-)
Now, I should point out that I am actually a big fan of legitimate reviews that take the time to dissect the hard work of the many, many artists and craftsmen involved in mounting a theatrical production. My plan going forward is to write a full-fledged review of every Broadway show I see, and I would love to go back and write full reviews of all the productions I have already seen. However, I do not have the time nor the memory to do so, given my two jobs and the fact that I haven't seen some of the long-running shows in years. So this will have to do.
So let's pretend you've just asked me, "Hey, how was [insert show title]?" Here's how I would respond:
Anything Goes: Sutton Foster is fantastic and the production numbers are stellar, especially the 8-minute tap routine that accompanies the title song. Unfortunately, Joel Grey seems to not know what is going on (or even his lines on occassion), and while the production is very slick, it's not significantly different from past productions of the same show. Worth it to see Sutton completely earn her 2nd Tony Award, espcially if you can get in for cheap thanks to Roundabout's Hiptix program (one of the greatest deals on Broadway).
Man and Boy: I haven't seen, so I'll have to get back to you. From what I've heard Frank Langella is amazing but the show itself is kind of blah.
Billy Elliot: I found the American production to be overrated, but I am probably biased because I saw the original London cast back in 2005 and they were spectacular (especially their Billy). The choreography is astounding, but some of the show's heart seems to have been lost during the trans-Atlantic journey (and Elton John's score is pretty ho-hum). Maybe the show is simply too British for American actors to be able to fully convey the nuance and emotion the Brits displayed. Whatever the reason, I maintain the show has been over-praised and should have lost the Best Musical race to the far superior Next to Normal.
Chicago: Needs. To. Close! At one point it was probably really entertaining, but that was likely about 200 celebrity stunt castings ago. Aparently if you manage to catch a celebrity-free cast the show is still really good, but I would just as soon rewatch the movie version. I wish this show would shutter and free up that theatre for (gasp!) a new musical or play.
Chinglish: Haven't seen. Sounds mildly interesting, but it isn't at the top of my list of shows to go see. Let me know what you think if you go.
Follies: Is amazing! It's seriously one of the best shows running right now, if not one of the best productions of the past few years. It features some of the most glorious music and staging I've seen in quite some time (props to the producers for opting for a full orchestra). Moments like "Who's That Woman?," where the fantastic Terri White leads the entire company of ladies (including Bernadette, Elaine Paige, and Jan Maxwell) in a tap routine where they dance with the ghosts of their former selves, will blow your mind. I'm also in LOVE with the Loveland sequence, especially the transitions in and out of it. All of the leads are fantastic, especially Jan Maxwell and Danny Burnstein (who is something of a revelation considering I have not enjoyed his previous Broadway outings). You need to go see this before it closes in January.
That's about enough for now. I'll be back later with more mini-reviews and recommendations for your viewing pleasure.