While Broadway openings taper off for the summer, scrappy Off-Broadway shows pick up the slack and tough it out in the heat of the concrete jungle. Let’s take a closer look at three diverse and buzz-worthy works that hit the stage in the last week:
THE JUDY SHOW: MY LIFE AS A SITCOM
Judy Gold, the Emmy-winning actress and comedian, had me at “hello”. Actually, it was “hello world, here’s a song that we’re singing,” the opening lines from The Partridge Family theme. Suffused with her love of 70’s sitcoms (including an infectious, scene-setting medley of “show” tunes), her warm and witty one-woman show charts her journey of self-acceptance as she attempts to find out how a six-foot-three, Jewish lesbian can fit into a Brady Bunch world.
What starts as a stand-up routine expands to allow room for some huge laughs, biting inside show biz stories and grace notes of real emotional complexity. Though the show may not be a fully-dramatized play (for those expecting Chekhov or Ibsen), thanks to the leading lady, her writing collaborators and director Amanda Charlton, you grow to feel deep affection for Gold and root for her family to find their happy, sitcom ending.
And don’t worry if you don’t know your Maude from your Mod Squad, my partner who seemingly was raised by wolves with no television (I once asked him if he liked Charlie’s Angels and he said he always enjoys Drew Barrymore) was grinning from ear to ear by the end of the show.
A much-whispered-about underground-classic since it’s 2005 NY Fringe Festival debut, the unauthorized parody of the Oscar-winning Silence of the Lambs finally got its big release over the weekend and is, ahem, killing the critics. It’s not hard to see why with a cast and creative team that includes Tony-nominated director/choreographer Christopher Gattelli (South Pacific), bookwriter Hunter Bell (Title of Show) and leading man Brent Barrett (Grand Hotel). It also features a riotous list of song titles that even my potty-mouthed mother would hesitate to speak in public.
Personally, I also can’t wait to watch scene-stealer Jeff Hiller (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) sully my innocent memories of silly string and my beloved Stephen Bienskie go full-frontal tuck as Buffalo Bill. Want a taste of the joyously delicious filth? Want to hear the most bleep-worthy words in a musical since The Book of Mormon? Watch this preview and be sure to bring your own lotion:
ET wanted to phone home. The Close Encounters creatures wanted to play Super Simon. But it seems all The Voca People want to do is rock. The “alien” acapella sensations land Off-Broadway tonight on the heals of massive world-wide success, 20-million youtube hits and rave reviews from ecstatic fans. Consider me intrigued.
One note: judging by the video preview below, there is some audience participation in the show. If you love getting involved in the party, buy a seat on the aisle, smile big and enjoy. I, however, see an actor head for the house and dive under my seat. I like the fourth wall. I crave the fourth wall. I want the fourth wall reinforced with flying buttresses. But if you’re like me, I’m here to help. I was in the original company of a show in which I pulled audience members on stage to do a hip-gyrating dance. (Yes, hypocrisy, thy name is Tom.) Buy a seat in the middle of the row and don’t look either too excited or too nervous; I know from experience that the actors are looking for animated people (participants who will make for good theater) and they won’t want to waste time dragging you across the other patrons. Your welcome.
Now go enjoy the show!