While theaters have reopened, the news on that front has been more about once considered here-to-stay shows closing. That even includes Phantom of the Opera, which in the course of a remarkable 35 years became a must-go-to attraction, as the Statue of Liberty is for any visitors to New York. But those tourists on which a show like Phantom has always relied aren't exactly back in droves nor have production costs gone down. And so the famous chandelier has gone down at the Majestic Theater. Unless you catch one of the still-operating touring productions, the only way you can see it is at the Public Library for the Performing Arts invaluable film library. Just four months into what was to be the longest ever run of a Broadway musical, the TOFT (Theatre on Film and Tape) Archive video-recorded the production. Under the able stewardship of Patrick Hoffman, the library's archived films have always been available by appointment once a show closes. The Phantom video recording will become available for viewing in the TOFT Lucille Lortel screening room beginning February 20, 2023.
MY RECENT SCREENING EXPERIENCES: THE MORE APT THAN EVER DOWNTON ABBEY AND CROWN SERIES
. . . AND THE DISAPPOINTING INTIMATE APPAREL OPERA
Why Rewatching Downton Abbey and The Crown is More Apt Than Ever
The show the whole world was watching -- live in Great Britain and Scotland and on-screen the world over -- refers, of course, to the rituals of Queen Elizabeth's burial and the ascension to the crown by her son. Undoubtedly it caused many like me to have another look at the still available Downton Abbey and The Crown. The real-life royal events somehow made both series more meaningful to watch, whether for the first time or again.
Since Downton Abbey is something of a miniature royal family drama, it somehow rings bells now that didn't when the show first aired -- for example, with so many newspapers gone digital, just seeing all residents at Downton receive their own newspaper (and, thanks to all those servants, each paper is ironed) underscores how times have changed. As for the November arrival of another Crown season, the widely watched ending of Elizabeth's long reign is more than likely going to insure greater success than ever for this drama's own finale.
Also timelier than ever is the second Downton movie spinoff. Initially, the movie could only be seen at theaters, but it's now available to rent or purchase for screen viewing. It's well worth seeing. Besides showing the Crowleys to be very much in the present era, the new spinoff provides a happy ending for all the characters. That makes it exactly the sort of escape fare we all need during these more troubling than ever times.
Why I Was Disappointed in the Operatic Version of Intimate Apparel
I was fortunate enough to see Intimate Apparel, the play, both off and on Broadway and my enthusiastic review of that production is still available in Curtainup's archives. Here's the link to copy and paste into your browser --http://www.curtainup.com/intimateapparel.html
Since I was unable to attend the opera version during it's limited run at Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse Theater, its availability to screen was indeed good news. I'm glad for the chance to catch up with it and do admire how Nottage has managed to stay true to the plot and yet cut the text enough to allow time for the music. However, I can't say I found it as intriguingly different from the play, but enjoyably so. I was underwhelmed by the physical production and found the score problematic -- not melodic enough for musical theater lovers, and without the sort of arias that attract most opera enthusiasts. Somehow, neither staging or score stirred me as I had hoped. That said, the singers, all with opera backgrounds, are excellent and the score has its moments so perhaps readers more attuned to this type of contemporary musical presentation will differ with me.
Close on the heels of the challenging Nottage opera, the Mitzi Newhouse is presenting a new play by another much lauded playwright, Sarah Rule. Unlike Arthur Miller's ill-fated Salem characters in The Crucible, Ruhl's Becky Nurse of Salem is billed as a comedy about a descendant of one of Salem's witches -- albeit a dark one. It begins previews October 27 and opens on Thursday, November 21.
ABOUT THE RE-OPENING OF THE THEATER
Though the final drop of the Phantom chandelier has been the most shocking closing, other shows unable to withstand the still limited return of tourists spelled other closings before their time: My Dear Evan Hansen and To Kill a Mockingbird the most notable examples.
Happily, some plays I and my backup reviewers were fortunate enough to see when they originally opened are getting new limited runs on Broadway. That includes Take Me Out (Link to review -- http://www.curtainup.com/takemeoutlond.html) and Cost of Living (Link to my review -- http://www.curtainup.com/costofliving17.html). And Off-Broadway, Suzan-Lori Parks' Top Dog/Underdog is also getting a reboot. Here's the link to Les Gutman's review when it opened -- http://www.curtainup.com/topdog.htm
It's also good news that the much produced (justly so) Death of a Salesman is getting a new production with its first black Willie Loman, the excellent Wendell Pierce. Performances will be at the Hudson Theatre.
Finally, there's what's probably Tom Stoppard's last and most stirring and personal play, Leopoldstadt, which premiered in London and begins an open-ended run at the Longacre Theater on September 17, 2022, with an October 2 opening.
At two hours and 10 minutes without intermission, the saga of a family much like Stoppard's own is not an easy entertainment. Though I'm no more in the mood than any of you reading this to be entertained by a tear-inducing narrative, if there were one play that I would attend in person this coming season, Leopoldstadt would be it.