HIPSTER Tips for Musicals in NY and LA - from a Critic who is NOT Charles McNulty

Stephen Fife

Writer, Non-Registered Critics

So the word is out on the street - THE BAND'S VISIT by Itamar Moses (adapted from an Israeli film), music by David Yazbek, directed by David Cromer is a great night in the theater and will be a huge hit!  If you haven't read about it yet, it's because you can't be bothered to read theater reviews.  But Ben Brantley of The New York Times is "in love again" and David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter has been moved to writing poetry again by the 90 minute evening.  And on and on and on.  And the Tony race is on!

Well, I saw THE BAND'S VISIT while I was in NYC 10 days ago.  I had to buy a ticket (!) and sit in the nosebleed seats because Molly Wyatt, the show's publicist, couldn't grasp that Charles McNulty is not the only theater reviewer from Los Angeles.  Here's Molly's email address: molly@polkandco.com.  I would really appreciate it if you would write a letter of protest on behalf of all critics from LA who are not Charles McNulty.

Oh, and the show?  Terrific.  Even from a few miles away, I was entranced by Katrina Lenk, Tony Shalhoub (always brilliant) and everyone else involved with this bewitching evening.  I think it captures the deep wish in our hearts right now for compassion and understanding to replace violence as the order of the day between humans who are different from each other.  But does that mean I forgive Molly?  Ha!

BREAKING NEWS: The Sacred Fools production of MR BURNS: A Post-Electric Play has been extended to DEC. 9th!  MR BURNS is this critic's choice for LA production of the year.  With tickets at $15, this is a deal that can't be beat!

Speaking of Charles McNulty - who is of course the lead theater critic for the LA Times (you knew that, didn't you?) - he wrote a brilliant review of BRIGHT STAR, the bluegrass musical by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell.  Seriously, it was brilliant - here's a link, check it out if you missed it the first time.  I agree with everything that Charles (is it okay if I call you Charles, Charles?) wrote, and I loved his image of the audience doing a jig in our seats.  I saw the show and I can absolutely confirm that I was jigging like a crazy man in my seat.  Could not stop jigging.  Charles goes on to point out that the musical's story is pretty lame stuff, which it surely is, and that Steve and Edie (harking back to an earlier Steve and Eydie for all those old enough to know what I'm talking about) are novice creators of musical theater, and that it shows.  He's right, it does.  Nevertheless, I loved the music, the musicians, and, most of all, Carmen Cusack (the star), who is tall, short, fat, thin, loud, quiet - simply everything you could ask for in a nearly impossible-to-act role.  She is a force, magnificent, and you will lie awake nights cursing Charles McNulty if you let his justifiably negative comments convince you to miss this show.  There is none of Steve Martin the tongue-in-cheek wiseguy here, only Steve Martin the bluegrass-playing banjo picker who loves this roots music with his entire soul.  That love comes through, and you'll be so glad to experience it first-hand, because it's highly doubtful that this big-hearted musical will come through this town again in the near future.  And man, it feels really good to dance like that in your seat!

Steve is a 5-tool writer (plays, screenplays, novels, poetry, journalism) who has had 11 books published, 10 plays produced, and has written for the New York Times “Arts & Leisure”, Village Voice, New Republic, and many others. He is one of the few people on the planet who can lay claim to spending time with Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Sandy Meisner, Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, and Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, as well as so many other extraordinary people who refused to color inside the lines. He is always on the lookout for the original and the incisive.