Friday, July 01, 2016

Thoughts on She Loves Me Live!

I miss a lot of things from when I lived in New York City.  I miss the food, the people, the neighborhoods.  I miss knowing that I can see any movie that the Academy was going to see if I was willing to take the train far enough, or the thrill of an art museum I've never even heard of popping into my afternoon after a leisurely panini in the park.  But most of all, as a devoted theater fan, I miss Broadway.

Don't get me wrong, I still go to Broadway when I can, but it's not an endeavor that I can afford or that I can venture toward on a regular basis.  After all, finite funds only get you so far in life, and I've been told there are other places I should try visiting other than New York City (I don't necessarily believe such rumors, but they continue to persist).  I do hit my local theaters as often as I can, and I support touring shows whenever they're in town, but there's nothing quite like a live Broadway show to truly spark the imagination and to make, me, well giddier than I normally am under such conditions.

So BroadwayHD's recent decision to air She Loves Me on a live-streaming platform was something that I couldn't really pass up, even I was somewhat skeptical that the thrill of a live show could ever be duplicated.  The idea was that you could watch the show, the actual show that is on Broadway, live.  While Broadway shows have appeared on PBS before, in this case it was months after the fact, and while that's still fun and all, it didn't have quite the same experience as a live program-one where anything could happen, one where you can see the reaction right along with the audience.  I was bound-and-determined to support such a concept and give it a shot, and wanted to make sure it wouldn't be a taped version but instead to watch it alongside the audience, albeit a thousand miles away in my pajamas with a bowl full of popcorn that I wouldn't dream of bringing into an actual theater (I think it's beyond rude to eat snacks in a Broadway house, or even have a drink-that's what intermission or after the show is for).

The program wasn't without its glitches.  There were, especially during the previews but even during the opening number, some technical hitches that people were adamantly pointing out on Twitter.  My computer stopped working, so I had to quickly switch over to my phone (I am literally counting the days until I can get a new computer-46 to go!).  However, after clearly some on-boarding issues (my hunch is BroadwayHD wasn't really prepped for such an interest, but expatriate theater fans clearly wanted this product), the show went off without a hitch and I will just vouch that this was a marvelous experience.  It helps that the show was really wonderful.  Not being familiar with Zachary Levi outside of his work on Chuck, I wasn't sure if he could transfer his charm to the stage, but I was pleasantly surprised to see him transpose to the boards so well.  Gavin Creel and Jane Krakowski both smoldered (seriously-Gavin Creel should keep that mustache as it more than working for him), and Laura Benanti, is well, always perfect but here in particular.  Her "Vanilla Ice Cream" and "Will He Like Me?" were strong enough to make Barbara Cook herself proud, and she nailed the comic timing.  It was a strong choice by the Roundabout and BroadwayHD to go with for the first live-stream-no one could confuse this for the bumpy outings that NBC has made with valuing celebrity over pure Broadway talent for their musicals (admittedly out of a sense of financial obligation), as everyone was on all cylinders here (there was no country star trying to be Julie Andrews), but the story was familiar enough to modern audiences through You've Got Mail to ensure that people who were lay theater fans could enjoy it.

For us devout fans, it was bliss.  Not a single cell phone went off during the production, and while next time I will find a way to either watch this on my TV or my computer (my brother insists he can figure out a way to get me into the 21st Century and learn how to properly stream things-I remain hopeful but unconvinced), and I was able to literally sing along with Benanti and Creel as my favorite numbers from the show came up.  I don't know why it felt more thrilling to watch it live-perhaps it was the actual moments where I was doing the same thing during intermission I would have done in a show (texting, tweeting, grabbing a cocktail), or that you could see the same things you would in an audience, your eyes shifting focus around the stage and wondering how an actor will react to a flub of the line or a prop gone wild (Laura Benanti got that one when her ice cream fell off of its spoon and she, without missing a beat, grabbed it and ate it off her lap, making it not only seamless but also realistic as we've all been there).  This was a very special night, and an historic one for Broadway.  I did miss getting into my chair and clutching my Playbill, anxiously looking at the next number wondering when one of my favorites was going to pop up, and there's nothing quite like looking up and seeing someone you've admired for years like Benanti or Krakowski live, but for a Broadway fan from Minnesota, this was easily the best $10 I've spent in eons.  I'm hoping this catches on-whenever there's funds for such an adventure I'll be heading to Broadway, but it would be a true joy to have the option to see a show that I can't quite get to streaming into my home.  Make it happen, BroadwayHD!  And if you're in NYC, catch this before it closes on July 10th, as the show is divine.

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