Friday, March 27, 2015

Martin Short in It's Only a Play

You know game, "if you could have dinner with any 5 people, dead or alive, who would it be?" I sort of play that game but it's more "if you could have anyone be related to you, who would it be?" I fondly, and creepily, think of Martin Short as my "Uncle Marty". Between Three Fugitives, Clifford, ¡Three Amigos!, the Father of the Bride remakes and much more, he was a big part of life growing up and still is. My sister and I may have snuck into The Santa Claus 3 just to see him in it, and of course, he was really the only entertaining part.

Back in 2006, Uncle Marty had a comedy musical on Broadway called "Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me", a sort of fictional autobiographical show told through skits and musical numbers. At the time I was living in my home state of Wisconsin but was going to be visiting New York City in just a few weeks. Once I arrived and checked into my hotel, I excitedly paid a visit to the concierge so she could help me score a ticket to the show. She calls up her contact at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre and she has some bad news. The show closed. Just the day before. I obviously didn't do my research.

Fast forward to 2014, I am now living in NYC and hear Uncle Marty will be replacing Nathan Lane for a number of performances in "It's Only a Play". I immediately look for discounted tickets. Nothing really worth buying. A few weeks later I look for more discounted tickets. I've been waiting years to see him perform but at the same time, I'm on a budget. Soon enough the number of performances with Short are dwindling and in the end it was TKTS that won. 50% off day of tickets, $80 total per person for orchestra seats. Not too bad of a deal.

A brief summary of It's Only a Play and it's cast:

A wealthy first-time Broadway producer, Julia Budder, is throwing an opening night party for The Golden Egg at her luxurious Manhattan home. The playwright Peter Austin, the director, the actors, along with assorted friends and hangers-on (including a critic) nervously wait for the late-night reviews printed in the newspapers. Meanwhile they gossip and throw out the names of the celebrities who are in attendance. Virginia Noyes, the star of the show, is taking drugs. James Wicker, an old friend of the playwright, is now a successful TV actor who turned down the lead in the play, and is relieved and secretly thrilled about the bad reviews that arrive. And, although Ira Drew is a theater critic, he is very critical of the theater because he has no talent to actually participate, despite his secretly writing plays. Not discouraged by the bad reviews for The Golden Egg, the assembled parties eagerly make plans for their next play, which they know will be a hit. [from wikipedia]

The whole play takes place in Julia Budder's apartment so most of the entertainment relies on the performances. I liked the play as a whole for the most part. The pacing was off and certain lines/scenes could have been excluded. Throughout the show many celebrities are named as arriving to the party such as Daniel Radcliffe and Shia LaBeouf, and sometimes those names are the punch line of a joke. One such joke that seemed 5 years too late was when the wannabe actor who is hired to take care of the guests' coats for the night, Gus, walks in with a pile of plastic balls and announces that Lady Gaga has arrived.

Short plays James Wicker and he was fantastic. He was over the top when he needed to be and I ate it up. I am interested to see how Nathan Lane plays the character since his and Short's comedy performances are very different from each other. Micah Stock was just delightful as Gus. It makes sense that he would be. Like his character, Micah is pretty new to acting, this being his Broadway debut, so I can't help but think that when Gus is excitedly announcing the latest celebrity guest who has arrived, it is really Micah who is wowed from the excitement of sharing the stage with these acting veterans.

As Julia Budder, Katie Finneran plays her with just enough aloofness that it is endearing rather than annoying. She delivers some of her sarcastic lines under her breath that it made me wonder if Julia isn't as dim as she presents herself.

I was a bit disappointed in Matthew Broderick as Peter Austin; I wasn't sure if he was bored or his character was supposed to be so...monotone and stiff. Maulik Pancholy (who I really only knew as Jonathan from 30 Rock) was another disappointment. As the British rockstar like director of the play, Maulik's faux British accent seemed to strain him.

Overall, I would recommend the show.

After the play we headed over to Sardi's, birthplace of the Tony Award and overall nice place. If you are not familiar with Sardi's, it is known for the caricatures of stage actors that adorn their walls and is located in the heart of Broadway which makes it ideal for a meal or drink pre- or post-show.

 Martin Short wrote about when he had his caricature done in his book, I Must Say: My Life As a Humble Comedy Legend and how it basically looked nothing like him.
side note: If you haven't read his book, please get a copy asap. Even if you're just meh about him, he has great stories about his life growing up, starting out in Godspell with other future stars including Victor Garber & Gilda Radner and the stories about his Christmas parties make you wish you could sell your first born just to get an invite. 

After grabbing a drink from the bar (for the life of me I cannot remember what drink I ordered), I asked the bartender if he knew the general area of where Short's caricature was and he courteously took me downstairs to one of the back corners where I spotted it. The bartender was also kindly filled me in on a fact: Once the caricature is done, two copies are made. The original goes into a vault, one copy goes to the actor and the other goes on the wall.

Overall, it was a good day. 

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