Also, Other Things Happened in NYC

Including Book of Mormon, TJ and I saw four—count ‘em—musicals last weekend. A quick rundown of what we saw:

Silence! The Musical
http://www.silencethemusicalnyc.com/

Our good friends Greg and Vince recommended this brilliant off-Broadway show, and it was truly, truly scrumptrulescent. This musical spoof of The Silence of the Lambs was pee-inducing in the best way possible.

For a fan who’s seen the movie a gajillion times, hearing Hannibal Lecter croon “If I could smell her cu*t” and Buffalo Bill wail “Would you fu*k me?” was utter brilliance. (True to every decent musical, there’s also a “Dream Hannibal” and “Dream Clarice” who plié and jeté right into your heart.) Faithful to the movie and exposing its frankly comical flaws through song, this hilarious sendup tickled me in all the right places.

Here’s video:

I’m actually super surprised something like this hasn’t been produced in DC yet. Hmm. That’s a gap. Maybe someone should explore that gap.

Ahem.

The Book of Mormon
http://www.bookofmormonbroadway.com/

So I shelled out the goods for premium seats to the 2011 Tony Award winner for best musical. The verdict: ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY WORTH IT.

TJ and I have been listening to the score for over a year, inadvertently memorizing every intonation of “Hello!” in the opening number. Even before we saw the show, we loved everything about it. As fans of Avenue Q, South Park, and anything else with an irreverent sense of humor, we were hooked.

And then we saw the show. We were floored. We thought we knew the story, but there were lots of surprises that induced audible snorts from us to the point that the person sitting next to us thought to point it out at intermission. Ha! We’re such outrageous guffawers…

The cast was across-the-board fantastic. Standbys Nic Rouleau and Jared Gertner played Elders Price and Cunningham, who were fine. But the standouts for me were Rory O’Malley, Kevin Duda, and of course, Tony winner Nikki James.

Extremely well-written, well-executed, and yes, even emotionally resonant (I choked up in one particular scene in the second act), this show ranks up there as one of my new favorite musicals. Let’s just say I’m buying multiple tickets for multiple shows when the national tour comes to the Kennedy Center next year.

Anyhoo. Right before the show started, we received a text from our friend Vince. He instructed us to go to the stage door after the show. Our names would be on a list.

Yes, that list.

The list that the burly security guy by the door has.

The list that every teenage fan wants to be on.

The only time I’ve felt cooler was when TJ took me to a fancy schmancy South Beach night club a few years ago. He led us past the long line of douchebaggery waiting to get in, whispered something in the bouncer’s ear, and got us through the velvet ropes like smooth, uh, criminals. Baller. That was when I knew that I needed to keep him around. 🙂

Back to Mormon: Once inside and on stage (!!!), we met Kevin Duda, who is one of Vince’s friends. Kevin gave us a backstage—and actually, understage—tour. We saw everything: the sets, the costumes, the orchestra pit—the whole shebang. We met costume ladies and propmasters. The whole thing was a little bit of a blur, actually.

To be fair, this was immediately after the proposal, so while I was composed and collected on the outside, I was actually squeeeeeeeeeing inside.

I hadn’t mentioned anything about the proposal during the tour, but as we were wrapping up and thanking Kevin, TJ said that the tour made our day even more special and flashed his ring. Jaws dropped, and Kevin gave us a hug and celebrated with us! Yay!

Sight unseen, this show was already special to me and TJ. But now, thanks to Kevin, The Book of Mormon will forever be the known as the musical where TJ and I got engaged. And got a backstage tour.

Ghost
http://www.ghostonbroadway.com/

I know what you’re thinking. A musical about the Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore movie? Yes.

But… Wha? How?

My suggestion: Just shut up, sit back, and enjoy maybe the most spectacle-y spectacle you’ll see in a long, long time.

By all counts, this show is fantastic. Even in previews (the show opens officially on April 23), Ghost is tremendously well-done. The four leads are phenomenal, and the ensemble lends tremendous kinetic energy to the scenes, even if they’re just passersby on a busy New York City street or passengers in a haunted subway car. The highlight was Da’Vine Joy Randolph as storefront psychic Oda Mae Brown. I predict she’ll get a Tony nomination for her performance.

Few of the songs are hummable post-show, but the score itself is powerful and weaves the pain of losing a loved one so skillfully and without any kind of coy cynicism. For those keeping track, two songs have been changed from the West End score: “Ball of Wax” and “Life Turns on a Dime.” And the changes are huge improvements.

But the superstar of this show is the technical wizardry in the set design. The production is not like anything I’ve ever seen. I don’t have a thousand words to describe it, so you’ll have to see it to believe it:

All in all, Ghost is a great show. Life changing? Maybe not, but definitely worth a second look. We’re adding this to our “see it again” list next time we’re in New York.

And of course, like good theater nerds, we hung out by the stage door and met the four leads. Um, yeah. Totes.

Once
http://oncemusical.com/

Full disclosure: Once is one of my favorite movies. I fell in love with the film’s simplicity—a guy and a girl sharing a deep but temporary connection through music. (It predates another favorite film, Weekend, which features a similar theme of love with an expiration date.)

The musical is no less sublime. In fact, it might even be more so. The show is honest and appealing, with the superb cast also serving as the orchestra. When you order drinks from the bar on stage (!) before the show starts, the cast regales you with jigs that transport you to Ireland or your favorite Irish pub.

The show itself flows with an organic rhythm. It’s relaxed, but well-paced; vulnerable, but hopeful. The characters are well-developed and palpable. They are joyful, flawed, sad, confused. And you feel every emotion that each character speaks or sings. The show makes it very, very difficult not to get emotionally invested in the two main characters and their relationship.

The songs, are of course, tremendous. That’s a given. But there are lots of quiet, honest moments throughout the show that sometimes speak louder than the songs themselves. The emotional crescendo leads to an unforgettable conclusion that packs a wallop.

How unforgettable?

When the reprise of the “Falling Slowly” began, I lost it.

I didn’t have a lump in my throat. I wasn’t sniffling.

Tears were literally streaming down my face. Like, we’re talking major flooding here. I felt them as they made their way down my neck to soak my shirt.

And for those of you who know me, you know I don’t do this. At least not in public.

Because I am a robot.

And at the end of the day, what I want to see in a live performance is something that moves me: something that makes me laugh, makes me think, or makes me feel so depressed that I’d feel the need to eat a bowl of ice cream—the dairy kind. And Once wins the award for making me bawl like a little kid in public.

The standouts were the two leads: understudy Ben Hope (guy) and Cristin Milioti (girl), whom I predict will get at least a Tony nomination for her performance. I didn’t get a chance to see Cristin on her way out to congratulate her on her devastating performance, both in the show and on 30 Rock, but I did get a chance to grab a pic with Ben. Yeah, I call him Ben. We’re on a first name basis.

So in conclusion, if you find yourself in NYC anytime soon, definitely check out these shows. They’re all fantastic, and all worth seeing.

And if you can, see if you can get someone to propose to you.

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