Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lincoln In New York: Day 1: Phantom of the Opera

So the "work" part of this trip [if you can call two days of BSing, cocktails, and bowling work] was officially over at 3:45 this afternoon. By 5:30 I was in Manhattan and checked in to my room. At the Waldorf=Astoria.

Now the room itself isn't too much more spectacular than any given room at any other hotel; comparably it's certainly smaller than I'm used to but by no means claustrophobic. Although now that I'm typing this and have looked at some of the pictures I took, I'm realizing that the level of craftsmanship and detail is infinitely higher than I'm used to. Despite being in quite possibly the noisiest city in the world, the room is stunningly quiet -- I've not heard one bit of noise from the hallway and only the occasional horn honk outside.

After checking in and hanging my clothes [an ounce of prevention is worth 45 minutes of me trying to iron out a wrinkle in vain] I went for a little walk to get myself oriented. After correcting for three wrong turns and going solely from memory I made my way to the TKTS booth in Times Square.

I still had a really bad taste in my mouth from Playhouse Square's Chicago and I needed to cleanse my palette. A perfect cleansing is exactly what I got. While I still need to see Les Mis, I am now not the only musical theatre fan in America who has not seen Phantom of the Opera. A lot of people seem to get very excited about Phantom and I've never really gotten it.

I wasn't terribly familiar with the music but what I had heard I was kind of lukewarm to. It goes without saying that it was a completely different experience live and somewhere around the dramatic swell in Think of Me during the first scene I realized that this was going to be a great show. While not my favorite musical (Spring Awakening still holds that role, and for sentimental reasons Jersey Boys and The Who's Tommy are tied for second), Phantom was a solid and enjoyable show.

Where with Chicago most songs started tolerable but ended "painfully annoying", Phantom I enjoyed most songs from the beginning and those that I didn't immediately like I wound up liking to some degree as the song progressed. I did feel that the first act was much stronger than the second, but that is the case with most theater... and matching the first act would have been tough to pull off. Something about the music kept me wondering when I was going to hear Sondheim's Pretty Women from Sweeney Todd (in this video clip starting at about 6:20 if you don't know what I'm talking about). The music was very operatic and I was pleasantly surprised by how well the cast pulled it off.

Here's a box office tip for you: Any time a ticket seller tells you that a seat is "a little to the left" or "just off center" translate that to "you couldn't be any more to the left while still having a seat in the theater" -- and that was true of my seat, BB 11, second row, last occupied seat... here's my preshow view (BB 12 and 13 exist but it doesn't appear that 12 or 13 in any of the first several rows was sold)... it was actually a very good seat. Most of the action was either center or in that corner downstage right and there's very little where I felt like I might be missing something.

While I was essentially seated directly in front of a speaker and heard more amplified sound than natural sound after my recent experiences with poorly balanced sound (Chicago and Wicked to be precise) the audio was pleasantly unobtrusive.

I love when the band/orchestra plays out, and I watched the entire playout for Phantom from the edge of the pit. Not only did it sound fantastic it was a unique perspective: Being literally above the musicians allowed for a much better view of their playing and because the conductor's portion of the pit extends further into the house for the first time ever I could see the conductor's facial expressions and body language which adds a dynamic to the interaction between musician and conductor. (To digress: I wonder if the Cleveland Orchestra has ever thought of putting audience members behind the orchestra on the choir risers? I'm not sure you'd get the best sound, but it would be an immerseive experience!)

Ok, so it's time for me to go to bed so I can get up nice and early for tomorrow's adventures :)

For as hard as a time as I've given Playhouse Square recently the Jump Back Ball is coming up and I learned about a deal via 27 Dresses in Cleveland...I'm acutally more tempted than not to go this year but I'm not convinced it's for me.


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