I spent four days in New York last week seeing four shows during arguable one of the biggest weeks in Pittsburgh theater, so I have a ton of catching up to do, including "Smart Blonde" at City Theatre tonight, with the Public's "L'Hotel" and barebones' "Streetcar" still to come.
My colleague Maria Sciullo and my son Josh Axelrod spread out our viewing a bit, so here are just a few of the impressions of the week before Thanksgiving in New York.
Maria and I opened with with the hauntingly beautiful revival of "Side Show," a retooled version of the original that had a relatively short first run in 1997-98. Reviews have been justifiably positive for this story of the real-life conjoined twins and vaudeville stars Daisy and Violet Hilton, but ticket sales slipped this past week, possibly as holiday tourism ratcheted up the family-friendly shows.
While we were at "Side Show" on Nov. 20, Josh and a friend took in "Cabaret" with Emma Stone making her Broadway debut as Sally Bowles. Here's what he had to say about the movie star onstage with Alan Cumming in his reprise of his career-defining role as the emcee.
On a New York trip that was to include four plays and a Jimmy Fallon taping, I knew going in that the highlight would be seeing "Cabaret" at Studio 54.
It wasn't because of the musical itself or the glowing reviews surrounding this revival. It was because Emma Stone was playing the promiscuous role of Sally Bowles. The prospect of seeing Stone clad in Kit Kat Klub-appropriate attire was exciting enough, but I also wanted to see if she could sing as well as she can act. My verdict: There seems to be nothing she can't do.
Anyone who has seen "Birdman" knows that Ms. Stone is more than just a comedienne now. She's a versatile actress who may be nominated for an Oscar this year for her supporting role as Michael Keaton's addict daughter. We all know she can be bring the comedy in broad fare like "Easy A" and "Superbad" or the emotional chemistry as Gwen Stacy in the "Spider-Man" movies. But the lady also happens to have a serious set of pipes.
She doesn't bring the roof down like I'm sure Liza Minnelli did in her time as Sally Bowles, but she destroyed "Cabaret," which required her to show her emotional range while also belting out the musical's showstopper. When she wasn't singing, she was as sultry as Nicole Kidman in "Moulin Rouge." It's no wonder Clifford Bradshaw (Bill Heck) fell in love with her so easily.
Okay, enough gushing about Emma Stone. She lived up to expectations beautifully, but the rest of the show was just as riveting. I didn't know that much about the music or story of "Cabaret," but it's a fascinating show. It reminded me of "Pippin" in its structure, with an Emcee (Alan Cumming) holding the show together while the characters struggle to maintain normalcy during the rise of the Nazis in Berlin. It's funny, sexy and incredibly dark at times.