Scott and I saw this musical at City Center on 6/25. It has music and lyrics by William Finn and a book by Finn and James Lapine. Scott is a big Finn fan - - he wrote *Falsettos*, *The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee*, other shows. He an acidic yet tender middle aged gay man, a type that speaks directly to both of us! Lapine is best known for writing the books for Sondheim’s *Sunday in the Park with George* and *Passion*. The show originally played off Broadway in 1998 - - it only ran for five months, but developed a cult following through the recording.
It appeared to be sold out, and the audience had the infectious buzz of people who are amped up for a great night at the theatre. And the show totally delivered, it was funny and touching and so beautiful. It’s the story of a young songwriter with ambitions to do a Broadway musical, but is toiling away writing songs for a children’s TV show. Out of the blue, he is rushed to the hospital with a bleed from an arteriovenous malformation in his brain. He has surgery and begins his recovery, sicker but wiser.
Jonathan Groff played the lead, and was so marvelous. The show reminded me of *Company*: they both feature an emotionally distant young man in the lead, who ends the show ready to open up his heart to the people in his life. Both shows are also real ensemble shows - - the leading man is the central character, but in some ways it’s the other people who are more interesting. Groff gave a lovely performance. He has a few pop mannerisms in his singing that annoyed me, but he didn’t do them so often that it drove me crazy. I definitely want to see him in more shows, he’s a genuine Broadway leading man. He’s handsome and has a fabulous head of hair.
Ana Gastyer played his mother, and she was tremendous. It’s a larger than life role, and she’s a larger than life performer. She has two steamroller songs and one tender song, and she delivered on all three. Aaron Lazar played the lead’s boyfriend - - he has the best song in the show, “I’d rather be sailing”, and sang it beautifully. He has a warm, charming presence and did the best possible job in a somewhat two-dimensional role. He wisely chose not to try and make something more of it than was there.
Two high points of the show, for me, were a couple of extended a cappella segments for the ensemble - - kudos to Jason Robert Brown for the glorious vocal arrangements.
Scott is a real stage door Jonny, so we hung out at the stage door after the show. We saw most of the supporting cast and wanted to stick it out and wait for Groff. We waited quite a while, but I’m so glad we did - - he couldn’t have been more gracious. He signed everything that was handed to him, took photos with every single person, and displayed endless and seemingly sincere good cheer (maybe he’s just a good actor). Listen to the two days he’s had: this show opened on Wednesday night, and he had another performance the next night, the performance we saw. And that afternoon he had his first rehearsal for *Hamilton* - - he’s playing King George III! I’ve been waffling about seeing that show, this news puts me a bit more in the direction of wanting to see it.
Anyway, Groff made this way through the crowd and finally came to us. He signed Scott’s program, we both fawned for a moment, and he smiled at us quizzically - - the smile was perplexed with a dash of wounded. It clearly said, “You don’t want a selfie with me?”