Los Angeles Trip

As I mentioned in my previous post we came out to Los Angeles to go to a concert at The Greek Theatre. We of course did other things while we were in town for a few days. Since in addition to the Greek Theatre I also I wanted to go to the Griffith Observatory, both of which are in Griffith Park, I was looking for places to stay nearby. I found this Italian Villa right outside the park, but my husband wouldn’t let us stay there. I mean it did cost twice as much as where we stayed, but at only $400 per night it wasn’t completely out of our price range. He’s too practical for that, so we wound up at The Hollywood Orchid Suites instead.

The Hollywood Orchid Suites are located on a little dead end street that is right off Hollywood and Highland. The entrance to the hotel is right across the street from the loading dock for the giant Loew’s hotel and the Hollywood and Highland shopping center, so you definitely don’t have a view and you could hear banging and trucks backing up all the time when sitting out on the balcony, but I never heard anything inside of our room at least where we were. I gather based on the reviews that some of the rooms closer to the front than ours might have some sound issues. The hotel is actually a converted apartment building, so all the rooms are huge with a completely full kitchen and dining area plus the bedroom and bathroom. If you were going to be in LA for any amount of time it would be a nice place to stay so you could cook. We were only there for a few days so we didn’t use the kitchen. We also had a nice little balcony. There wasn’t really a view of anything, but it was nice to be able to sit outside and our side of the building didn’t get the sun until around 5 pm, so it was nice and shady. There was also a little roof garden. A lot of the reviews say it’s clean but sort of outdated and rundown, but they are in the process of updating all of the rooms. We wound up in one that had already been redone, so it was nice. Nothing amazing, but good enough for us. I expect they’ll be done with the rest by the end of the year.

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Part of the reason we didn’t use the kitchen was that there was a free breakfast. It wasn’t anything fancy. But as someone who never eats the eggs and bacon parts of hotel breakfast I was perfectly content with what was there. All of the reviews of this place mention how awesome the woman who runs the breakfast area is. They were not lying. She was the best part of the whole place. She is super friendly and really takes pride in her job helping everyone get their breakfasts and chatting with everyone. She gave us a big hug when we were checking out. I don’t think we’ll be back to LA, but if we ever were I would definitely stay there again assuming I couldn’t somehow convince my husband to stay in the Italian Villa.

Thursday during the day we went out to The Getty Center, which is an art museum created by J. Paul Getty. It’s set up in the hills and you can get some excellent views of the city. We managed to spend 2 hours there before we even looked at any of the art. I wanted to go on the architecture tour, but we had just missed one when we got there and had about 45 minutes before the next one. I decided we should just wander around the gardens until the next one. We went on the tour, which was really interesting. After that we grabbed some lunch in the cafeteria before finally checking out the art which includes paintings, decorative arts, photography, sculpture, and illuminated manuscripts. It was a nice little art museum. It’s technically free to get into the museum, but it does cost $20 to park. I appreciated that they said that they give all the kids that come to the museum on field trips a free parking pass so they can bring their families back and have it be a truly free experience.

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Thursday night was of course the Maggie Rogers concert at The Greek. Friday we headed out to Venice Beach. We started off at the end of the Venice Beach boardwalk and walked down to the Santa Monica Pier and back. On the way I said if the iconic ferris wheel costs $10 or less to ride I think I want to go on it. If it’s more than that I’m not interested. It cost $10, so we rode the ferris wheel. Then I dipped my feet in the Pacific Ocean and we walked back.

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We grabbed some tacos in Venice Beach for lunch. I feel like food is the one part we really failed at on this trip. Those tacos were probably the best thing we ate. Since we were staying in the super touristy part of the city everything right by us was chains and we often didn’t have time to drive somewhere else for dinner in conjunction with our plans. We wound up eating California Pizza Kitchen for dinner before the concert. Though we joked that since it has California in the name it must be a local chain. After the taco lunch I wasn’t that hungry before we needed to leave to go to the Griffith Observatory, so we wound up eating gelato for dinner.

My big plan for Friday night was to go up to Griffith Observatory right before sunset, watch the sunset, and then get in line to view the telescope. My plan mostly failed thanks to their stupid parking. I had looked into this and basically determined it was going to be impossible to park at the observatory, but on nights where there isn’t a concert at The Greek you can park in those lots and walk up or take a shuttle. Then when we got into the park the signs showed there was still limited parking at observatory and the lots for the Greek were closed. So we drove up, but there were a million cars in front of us and once you’re that far there is no way to turn around. You have to drive through the entire park loop and back out again. There was no parking along the road and they wouldn’t even let you up to actual observatory parking lot. By the time we looped back around we could finally park in one of the Greek lots, but I don’t know why they don’t just have them open and let you park in any of them whenever instead of keeping them gated off until they decide you should park there. That added about 30 minutes to our transit time, so by the time got up there we only got the last glimmers of sunset and the line for the telescope was way too long to wait in. We probably wouldn’t have gotten to the front before they shut it down for the night. So we just enjoyed some nice views of the city at night and then walked back down to our car. I think it was still worth it, but also I’m annoyed that their dumb parking situation ruined my perfect plan. I don’t know how you would ever go up there on a night that there’s a show at The Greek Theatre. I don’t recommend trying it.

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I didn’t have anything on our agenda for Saturday morning since our plane didn’t leave until the afternoon. I wanted to get a little bit of exercise in, so we wound up walking along Hollywood Boulevard and looking at all the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I had no idea that some people have more than one star for different areas of entertainment. I learned that Gene Autry is the only one who has 5 stars, one for each of the categories represented.

We also stopped and grabbed snacks for the plane at the Laurel Canyon Country Store. I of course being a big fan of music am interested in the musical history of that area. There’s not really anything to do in Laurel Canyon as such. It’s just a residential area and my husband was uninterested in just driving through the canyon, which I understand given all the other driving and all the traffic we sat in. Right at the entrance to the canyon though is a little convenience store/deli that you could apparently run into lots of the famous people who live(d) in Laurel Canyon. We didn’t bump into any 60s rock icons, but at least I can say I did something related to Laurel Canyon. And that was pretty much the end of our little trip.

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This is my third time in LA, and I don’t ever feel compelled to come back here. I don’t find it a particularly compelling city to be in. Unless you’re up in the hills and looking at the views, it’s not a particularly pretty city. And if you’re in the hills then there’s all the worry that your house might disappear thanks to earthquakes, wild fires, and mud slides. It’s all sprawl and traffic. I feel like we drove through a lot of areas of the city since everywhere we went Google Maps was like there’s an accident on the 405 or 101 or both so let’s go not on the highway. I wouldn’t care to live in any of them. And the traffic as advertised is terrible. It took us almost an hour to go the 4 miles between our hotel and the Greek Theatre on Thursday night and it wasn’t because of traffic going to the concert. I also am confused as to where people park all these cars they’re driving around all the time because driving by there didn’t ever seem to be any parking for any of the businesses that lined all the streets. Doesn’t matter I guess because I will never need to know. As far as I’m concerned aside from the weather LA doesn’t have much to recommend it. I know some people love it. They can have it. I’ll keep Baltimore.

Maggie Rogers at The Greek Theatre

As I have written about here before I have a concert venue bucket list. My husband likes to gift me travel for birthdays and Christmas and now that I’ve been done with my 50 states for a number of years now he’s moved on to buying me tickets for shows at the venues I want to go to. We went to Nashville a couple of years ago and knocked a few off of the list.

This year for my birthday he got me tickets to go see Maggie Rogers at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. I am amused that the gift managed to be both an early birthday present and a belated birthday present because the tickets went on a sale a few weeks before my birthday so he told me about it to make sure it would work with my schedule before he bought tickets (or really handed me a credit card and told me to buy the tickets so I could pick out my seats). Then since the show wasn’t until 3 months after my birthday it was also a belated birthday present.

The Greek Theatre was on my bucket list because it’s a historic outdoor venue located in Griffith Park in Los Angeles that opened back in 1930. The land for the park was donated to the city by wealthy land owner Griffith J. Griffith (yes that’s really his name and not a nickname). He also donated money to have The Greek Theatre and the Griffith Observatory built, a fact I did not learn until after we went the Observatory. The venue is built into the side of a canyon in the park so the acoustics are great and you’re surrounded by trees. Although sitting in the venue you can’t actually see much of the nature that surrounds you. The seats slope down a hill to the stage with the Greek facade behind it, which is where the name comes from. You can’t see over the facade to anything outside and you’re basically just looking into the side of a hill with a few trees that you can see around the side of the seats if you turn around. I’ve been to prettier venues, but it was a great place to see a show.

Unlike a lot of outdoor venues where you have pavilion seats and a lawn that sort of separates the audience, this is just one large theatre of seats sloping down a hills, so you get the full vibe of the audience together, which was great for a show like Maggie Rogers who definitely had people on their feet bopping along with her. It also only seats just under 6,000 people, so it’s a fairly intimate venue.

As per usual I managed to wind up by the most obnoxious people. I have no idea what happened to all the people sitting in the row in front of us. It was a sold out show, so I would have expected every seat to be full. The half of the row in front of us was never full. There were some people there for the opening band Now, Now that disappeared, which I thought odd. I mean liked Now, Now, but why wouldn’t you stay for Maggie Rogers too even if you came for Now, Now. There was no one in the two seats in front of us for the opening act. Two girls eventually showed up soon after Maggie started, but then they only stayed for about 4 songs and left. I have no idea what their deal was given there is nowhere in this venue to really go and hang out other than your seats. The real problem was the two other girls in the row who got super drunk and were way obnoxious as a result. Since all the other people in the row disappeared they basically moved in front of us and were super distracting. They were paying no attention to the show and drunkenly hanging all over each other such that they were blocking my view because there was no way to see between them and I couldn’t see around them without getting the space of the person sitting next to me. I was happy they miraculously somehow chilled out and just stood there for “Back in My Body”, which is probably my favorite Maggie Rogers’ song unless “Light On” is, and they left right before she ended her set with that, so at least they didn’t ruin my two favorite songs.

Maggie was great as always. She is such a good performer and is super energetic and dancing around the stage. She reminds me of Florence Welch from Florence + the Machine in that way. She pretty much played every single song she’s ever released at this point. I kind of like going to concerts when artists only have so many songs to play so you’re guaranteed to hear your favorites. It’s always a bummer when artists get a few albums under their belts and that one song you love is something they for whatever reason never add to their live rotation.

I appreciate that three years into the crazy whirlwind that her career has been that she still seems completely overwhelmed and thankful about everything she is experiencing. I’m pretty sure she was crying when she came back out for her encore. For the encore she came out without her band and sang “Alaska” with just an acoustic guitar. It’s like going back to the beginning since that was the song that started it all for her and rocketed her into the public consciousness with the viral video of Pharrell Williams’ reaction to her playing that song during a class at The Berklee School of Music where he was sitting in as a guest teacher.

It was an excellent show, and I’m happy I finally got to see a show at the famous Greek Theatre. It will probably be my one and only because I don’t ever feel compelled to return to Los Angeles again. I’ll write more about the rest of our trip in a future post.

 

Brandi Carlile with Mavis Staples at the Mann Center

Friday night I dragged my husband up to Philly to see Brandi Carlile with Mavis Staples at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts. He’s a good guy and indulges my whims to travel places to see concerts even though it’s not his thing. If you’ve been around this blog at all you know how much I love Brandi Carlile and that I’ve seen her many, many times in concert. Having already seen her in Baltimore this summer I probably would have skipped this one until I found out that Mavis Staples was opening. That tipped the scales and made me decide I had to go. The show being on a Friday made it totally doable.

This was my first time at the Mann Center. It’s a really pretty venue. It’s in the middle of a park and has a gorgeous view of downtown Philly.

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Had we been in different seats I probably would have been a lot happier with it. I usually have great seats at Brandi shows because I buy them through the fan club presale, but in this case I didn’t decide to go until well after tickets had gone on sale so I missed out on anything close in the orchestra level of the pavilion. In my experience usually sitting in the front row of the balcony is better than sitting in the back of the orchestra. Not so in this case. My husband called it the poor man’s Filene Center (the outdoor pavilion at Wolf Trap). They do share a lot of design elements and the Mann Center was built about 10 years after the Filene Center so I do wonder if they share the same DNA. Anyway, like at the Filene Center the upper level has box seats at the front, an aisle, and then the balcony seats. At the Filene Center though the balcony is raised up enough such that people walking in the aisle are essentially below where you’re sitting so they don’t block your view. Not so at the Mann Center. If you’re sitting the front of the balcony you just get a steady stream of people walking through the aisle in front of you (though it did taper off a lot during Brandi’s set). Also the part of the balcony we were in really should have been marked as obstructed view seats anyway. That end of the venue had the ADA seating on the aisle behind the boxes. At best you had railings and empty chairs from the little ADA alcoves in your view if no one was sitting there and if anyone was actually sitting in them there was no way to see at all.

I would have been marginally less annoyed if anyone sitting in that area throughout the night actually needed ADA seating. At both Merriweather and Wolf Trap if I’m sitting in the pavilion I’m used to having to show my ticket like 80 times on my way to my seat. I remarked on the fact that we didn’t have to show our ticket at all to get to our seat. Now I understand the problem with that because it was just madness. Some people who decided they didn’t like their actual seats or possibly even people from the lawn (it was kind of rainy thanks to Dorian so not a great lawn night) came in and sat down. As they obviously didn’t have anyone who needed ADA seating with them the usher did stop and ask, but then let them stay and told them they’d just have to move if anyone came for those seats. Then apparently some people from the lawn paid to upgrade to get into the pavilion and out of the rain and the usher just put them in those seats. Those people left early. Meanwhile back in the balcony people were just moving all over the place trying to be able to see anything. The girls who wound up sitting next to us for awhile moved down to the ADA seating when it opened up, which annoyed me the most of everything because they knew they were going to be blocking everyone’s view. Once they got down there they realized there were some open seats in the box below and went down there and left me to see about 3/4 of a song as unobstructed as it was ever going to get before 3 random guys appeared from nowhere and sat there. I’m really annoyed with the venue for not indicating that the view was obstructed when I bought the tickets because I never would have bought them and also for not enforcing where people were sitting and letting people who didn’t need ADA accommodations sit in those seats.

It was like the worst show to have terrible seats for too because it was so amazing. I finally realized at some point last week that I was going to see this show on the same day that The Highwomen, the new country super group Brandi Carlile is a part of along with Amanda Shires, Maren Morris, and Natalie Hemby, were releasing their album. I figured there was going to be some fun around that, but this was beyond anything I could possibly have imagined.

First up of course was Mavis Staples. She just an amazing legend. She turned 80 this year and has been doing this since was a kid as part of her family’s band The Staple Singers. Now she’s pretty much the only one left, and she’s still out there doing her thing. She put out a new album this year and is still touring. She’s joy personified and I just love her.

Brandi’s set was amazing and full of so many surprises. The setlist was largely the same as when I saw her at Merriweather earlier in the summer aside from the songs she sang as collaborations with all her surprise guests. I knew she and Mavis would sing at least one song together, which they did a cover of Mavis’ father, Pops Staples’s, song “Friendship”. What I was not expecting was Lukas Nelson joining them on the guitar. He apparently was playing the BB&T Pavilion the following night and got into town in time to come over and join Brandi for a few songs. It was obviously unclear whether he was going to make it in time because Brandi welcomed Mavis to the stage and then a stangehand walked over to her and obviously told her that Lukas Nelson was indeed in the house.

Country music legend Tanya Tucker was also there. Brandi produced her newest album and has been doing a lot of promotion of it with Tanya. So of course Tanya came out and sang “Delta Dawn”. Her dog even came out on the stage at one point.

That was not nearly the end of the surprises though. Fellow Highwoman Amanda Shires flew in from Nashville for the night to help celebrate the release of The Highwomen’s album. She joined in for about half of Brandi’s set playing the fiddle. When she’s not off doing stuff for her own career she plays in her husband Jason Isbell’s band the 400 Unit. I’m always disappointed when I see him in concert and she’s not there. I told my husband now I have to be disappointed every time she’s not backing Brandi on the fiddle too. They finally sang some Highwomen songs as the first two songs of the encore. In between there was yet another surprise with Tan France from Queer Eye coming out on the stage and talking about how much he loves Brandi. They invited everyone back out on the stage to sing The Highwomen’s first single “Redesigning Women”, complete with cardboard cutouts of Maren Morris and Natalie Hemby the two Highwomen that weren’t there. Then Brandi sang “If She Ever Leaves Me”, which is one of the Highwomen songs that she sings. I had pretty much already figured she was going to sing at least that one. I wasn’t sure about any of the other songs that are sung by the other Highwomen or as collaborations, but “Redesigning Women” makes sense because that song can be a singalong with just about anyone.

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It was a magical show, and I’m so happy I went up for it. I would have been so disappointed to have decided not to go and then heard about all of the amazing things that I missed out on later. I can’t wait to see Brandi again in January at the Ryman where I’m sure so much more magic will happen.

NYC Trip Day 3

For my final day in NYC I decided to finally go to the Tenement Museum, which has been on my list of things to do for a very long time. I’ve never made it before because everything is a timed tour, which always made me feel anxious about fitting it in around whatever else I might have planned during a trip. Since I had no other plans for Thursday and the weather was decent I decided it was finally time.

The Tenement Museum owns two old buildings on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which has been home to many different groups of immigrants including Germans, Eastern European Jews, and more recently Chinese and Salvadorans and Colombians. They bought the building in the late 80s after it had been sitting vacant for decades. They restored most of the apartments to recreate what they would have been like for specific families that lived there during various times. They did a lot of research to find out about the lives of the people who lived there and you learn about their lives on the apartment tours.

I wanted the weather to be nice because I wanted to do both a walking tour and one of the apartment tours. There are a number of tours to choose from, so I will definitely have to go back again the future to do some of the other ones. It is a fairly expensive proposition though. Each tour is $30, though you do get a 40% discount on one of your tours if you combine a walking tour and an apartment tour.

I did the Outside the Home walking tour and the Sweatshop Workers apartment tour. The Outside the Home tour was great. We walked around the neighborhood and learned about how it had changed and looked at some very specific buildings that were built during specific times to learn about how people lived, shopped, and worked. It was really interesting and our tour guide was wonderful.

I unfortunately did not think the tour guide for the apartment tour was nearly as good. I suspect the quality of the tours depends both on your guide and the group of people you are with. I enjoyed the walking tour way more the apartment tour and I suspect the different guide and different participants had something to do with it. My apartment tour looked the apartments of a couple of different families who ran small sweatshops sewing garments in their houses. It was really fascinating to learn about the families and think about how so many people lived in such a small space made even smaller by running a business out of it.

I would definitely recommend the Tenement Museum if you have the time and money. I definitely look forward to doing some of the other tours in the future.

Here’s some photos of a few of the buildings we talked about on the walking tour. You’re not allowed to take photos inside the apartments, so I don’t have any pictures of those. The one that has ABC on the front of it was the old Loew’s Canal Street Theatre. Apparently the old theatre, which seats over 2,500 people is still back there in disrepair and the Loew’s corporation still owns the building. Our tour guide showed us a picture of the inside. It would be an awesome space if someone fixed it up.

I had a little bit of time to kill after my tour before I had to head to Penn Station to pick up my train. I had to go back downtown to the hotel to pick up my bag, so I just wandered around a little bit and wound up at Pier 17, which is the whole huge new development of restaurants and shops that are still being built. Gentrification central for sure. They do have some nice benches and chairs built on the water though, so I sat and enjoyed the beautiful sun on my face and watched the ships go by for awhile. I’m pretty sure I’m powered by the sun and the water, so this was a very rejuvenating end to my trip.

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NYC Trip Day 2

My second day of this trip was my theatre day. Usually when I go up to NYC there are very specific shows that I want to see on Broadway. They are often the reason I’m traveling up there in the first place. Unfortunately Broadway has been full of jukebox musicals and musicals based on movies that I am just not interested in. Since there wasn’t anything I was dying to see I figured I would just get tickets for whatever I could get at the TKTS booth. I did figure out what my top choices were though and hoped that I could get tickets to them, which I did.

My top choice for the whole trip was to see The Ferryman. My friend Jenn who lives in the city is a TDF member and managed to snag me a cheap seat to the matinee. I wanted to do this show as the matinee because it’s 3 hours and 15 minutes. There are essentially three 1 hour acts with a 15 minute intermission between the first two acts and a three minute pause between the second two acts. I didn’t know a whole lot about the show going in other than it is about an Irish family. It takes place during the 1981 during “the troubles” when the actions of some family members a decade before come back to haunt them all. It is a sprawling cast of kids through seniors. Parts are very joyous and parts are super intense, especially the ending. I can’t imagine having to perform this show 8 times a week both to the length and the emotional toll I imagine it must take on the actors. I very much enjoyed it though and the three hours went by very quickly. It’s closing in July, but if you’re looking for a show to see in New York and are open to plays I would recommend it.

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Between shows I met up for a quick dinner with my friend Jenn, who I hadn’t seen for pretty much exactly a year which I know because Facebook started popping up memories of my trip to New York last April when I went up to see Brandi Carlile in concert and to see Children of a Lesser God and stayed with her. Since we were meeting up after she got off work and we both had tickets to separate shows at 8 pm, we met up the Turnstyle which is a food hall/shopping place built inside the Columbus Circle subway station. It was conveniently equidistant from our theatres and made it so we weren’t stressing about getting in and out of a sit-down restaurant. I had some very tasty plantain tacos from some taco place in there. I would definitely eat there again.

My evening show was My Fair Lady, which I wanted to see solely because Laura Benanti was playing Eliza Doolittle. I very carefully made sure that she was not scheduled to be out during this performance because otherwise I did not care. She was very good in the role, and it was a good production, but this show pretty firmly falls into the all your problematic faves category at this point. I couldn’t stop thinking about the recent Crazy Ex-Girlfriend episode where she discovers that all her favorite musicals are all very problematic when looked at through today’s lens. They did try and make it a little better by returning to the original ending of the play where Eliza walks away from Professor Higgins, which was changed in the musical. I thought it was a little awkward since they see the script all the way through and she comes back to him only to turn right around and walk away. I appreciate the sentiment though I guess because he is really terrible to Eliza throughout the whole show and never really, truly comes around.

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NYC Trip Day 1

My husband had to go up to NYC for work for a few days this past week. I needed to use up some vacation time, so I decided to make use of the free hotel room and join him. Since he had to be downtown for work we stayed down there in the Millennium Hilton, which is right across from the World Trade Center site. Our room had a fantastic view of the memorial.

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We took the train up on Tuesday morning. He headed into work and I wandered around the city. I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money to get into a museum, so I decided to go up to the main building of the New York Public Library to see the exhibits they had up. On my way up to the library I walked past Macy’s and saw that they had some flower show up called Journey to Paradisos, which involved elaborate flower displays with spaceships and aliens in their windows and all over inside the main level. The subject matter was kind of weird, but the flowers were pretty. I didn’t get any good shots of the window displays because the sun was at a bad angle and the reflections of the buildings in the glass blocked out was actually inside the windows.

It’s been over a decade since I last went inside the library. The last time I was there they had really cool exhibits on illuminated manuscripts and maps. The exhibits up this time were not nearly as elaborate. They had a Stonewall 50 exhibit celebrating LGBTQ rights and 50 years since the Stonewall riots. There was also a Walt Whitman exhibit that I didn’t spend a lot of time in because I don’t care that much about Walt Whitman and the space felt really crowded and claustrophobic so I just kind of wanted to get out of it.

I hadn’t originally planned to see a show on Tuesday night, but I had looked at what else was going on around the city and didn’t see anything that struck my fancy. I noticed that the new play Burn This starring Keri Russell and Adam Driver was in previews, so I convinced my husband we should go see it. It’s a revival of a 1987 play and is still set in the 80s here although for the most part it could have been set today. There are a few references and one scene that revolves around an answering machine that would have had to be changed, but other than that it could have happened in modern times. It did allow us to joke about Keri Russell only wanting to play 80s characters and my husband wondering if she just brought over her wardrobe from The Americans.

It’s a 4 character play with Keri Russell playing a woman whose roommate and dance partner was recently killed in a boating accident with his gay lover. The other characters played by David Furr and Brandon Uranowitz are her boyfriend and her other roommate and Adam Driver who plays the brother of the dead roommate who comes in and sort of upends all of their lives. Adam Driver is perfectly cast in this role. I can’t imagine anyone else in the part. There is some wonderful humor with him and articles of clothing. I’m really glad we decided to go see it on somewhat of a whim as I really enjoyed it.

I also really wish I could have someone associated with the show make me a playlist of all the songs used in and around it. To get you in the mood for the 80s setting of the show they had a fantastic playlist of 80s songs playing while you were waiting for the play to start. Then there were some really great music cues throughout the play itself. They really all felt perfectly placed and meaningful and not just let’s throw some 80s songs into this. I don’t really know anything about the original run of the play, so I would be curious to know about the music used back then. I’m hoping once the play is fully running that maybe some equally nerdy music person will create a playlist from it or if nothing else tell me what the song used as the main music cue at the beginning and end of the first act is because while I totally know the song I can’t for the life of me remember what the name of it is or who it’s by and I couldn’t pick out enough lyrics to even try and Google it and it’s driving me crazy. So you know, someone else go see it and tell me what that song is.

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Be More Chill

This past weekend I went up to New York with a couple of my friends in what has unintentionally apparently become our annual March Broadway trip since this is our third year running. I went into the show fairly cold. I had a general idea of what the story was about, but I hadn’t heard any of the music yet. I knew the backstory behind its run in New Jersey several years ago followed by a cult online following of the album recorded for that production that then propelled the show to off-Broadway and now onto Broadway. It just opened on Broadway this week, so it’s been pretty easy to avoid unless I guess you’re a theatre obsessed teenager on Tumblr or wherever the teenage fandom hangs out online these days. Most people I know have never even heard of this show before.

In my mind the show is a cross between the tv show Chuck (guy gets computer implanted in his head that makes him cooler, but then it causes mental problems), the movie Can’t Buy Me Love (teenage dork does something to try and make himself popular, but winds up blowing off his good old friend in the process), and the movie Labyrinth (because the representation of the super computer in the boy’s head reminded me of David Bowie’s character in Labyrinth even though it was supposed to evoke Keanu Reeves’ character in The Matrix). In non-pop culture references the show is about a nerdy teenage boy who wants to be more popular and finds out about some super secret super computers “from Japan” the size of a pill called squips that you can drink and they will implant in your brain and tell you what you should do to “be more chill”. Then of course all the lessons about learning how to like and be liked for yourself that teenage stuff like this likes to teach you.

I waited to read the New York Times review of the show until we were driving home last night because I didn’t want their critic’s view of the show coloring mine. I’m glad I did because his basic assessment of the show was teenagers get off my lawn. I guess he felt like he just couldn’t completely outright pan the show because it already has such a large following and it broke the Lyceum Theatre’s box office record for weekly ticket sales. So instead he basically just said it’s a terrible show by theat-ah standards, but I guess it’s okay for you teenagers. No one over 21 should bother.

Well, I’m 40 and I thoroughly enjoyed the show as did the other three over 40 adults and yes two 13 year-olds I was with. The other adults sitting around me all seemed to really like it too. I heard multiple people around me during intermission talking about how much they were enjoying it. So sorry it wasn’t up to your exacting standards Mr. NYT Critic. Sometimes you just want to go to the theatre to have fun. Is it the best show I’ve ever seen? No, but was I thoroughly entertained for 2 and half hours? Yes, I was. Plus I’ve had the song “Michael in the Bathroom” stuck in my head since the show. Also that song leads to perhaps one of my favorite theatre callbacks ever which I won’t spoil here. That’s pretty much all I’m asking for in Broadway show, and Be More Chill delivers it.

I will agree with him on one thing though. The show is needlessly loud. They definitely can and should take the sound down a notch or two. There’s no need anyone needs to risk hearing damage at a Broadway show. Yes, the music is more rock based, but that doesn’t mean the show needs to be rock concert loud. Concerts themselves are out of control with the sound levels, but at least there they can make the excuse that they have to overpower the ambient noise of the crowd and the bar, which is not an issue in Broadway theaters.

Is this a show I’m going to recommend to my 70 year old mother? Probably not, but if you still have a soft spot for teenage related pop culture like I do then this show is well worth your time. And obviously if you have some teenage theatre lovers in your life then apparently this show was made for them.

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