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Friday, April 20, 2012

Ellen's and Evita, another NYC night

Ellen's Stardust Diner on Urbanspoon I am sure I mentioned, at least half a dozen times, how much I love Ellen's Stardust Diner. It's not about the food, it's about the experience. I've been coming here since the 90's, and still enjoy it -- the retro feel, the party atmosphere. The home of the singing waitstaff, your server will be taking your order one minute and belting out a pop hit the next. Lately the place has been uber popular, and they don't take reservations, but even when the line is long the wait for a table isn't. I must warn you, Drew and I are not shy people. Do not come here with us if you would be offended by our singing along with the performers. In fact, that's what got me into trouble tonight. One of the waitresses sings "Different Drum", which was a hit for Linda Rondstat but which was written by Mike Nesmith. Yes, THAT Mike Nesmith, good old "Wool Hat" from the Monkees (and they said the Monkees weren't "real" musicians!) Anyhow, I know all the words to that song. "you and I travel to the beat of a different drum, can't you tell by the way I run every time you make eyes at me?" So she starts to sing, I start to sing along, and the next thing you know, she's got the mike in my face . . . Screen names notwithstanding, I haven't sung for an audience since I was in my high school chorus. Hope I did a credible job! I should mention the food, of course. We usually order burgers here, they come with killer waffle fries. Drew had a bacon cheeseburger and I had sliders. Huge portions, we can never finish . . .and I have yet to order dessert. The dessert menu looks yummy, though. Then it was off to the Marriott Marquis Hotel, a place where I love to hang out. Tonight our ultimate destination was the Marquis Theater, which is inside the hotel. I have always loved the wall of Broadway show posters just outside the theater. The show itself . . .well . . .usually you will hear me say two or three things about a show and how much I loved it. Today I'm going to be much more detailed. Bear with me, ok? The original production of "Evita" was a huge deal when it came to NY after a successful London premiere. I can still see the TV commercial in my head, Patty Lupone on the balcony, singing snippets of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina". The cast album -- two vinyl records -- contained virtually the entire libretto of the show, and I played it over and over, so that by the time I actually saw the show I'd committed the entire score to memory. If I hear the songs in my head, it's Patty Lupone and Mandy Patinkin whose voices I hear (loved them in concert last January, as you recall). I remember the whole look and feel of the original production. Hot, vibrant, exciting. Minimalist set and characters who didn't need a backdrop. To say I loved it would be an understatement. Then came the movie. What a disappointment. I am convinced that people who say they like the movie never saw the stage production and so had nothing to compare to the movie. The movie was very grand, the scenery was lush. Madonna was gorgeous (though songs had to be altered to fit her limited vocal range), Antonio Banderas was gorgeous, the music was gorgeous. The movie was . . .meh. As played by Madonna, Eva became the saint she pretended to be. All the nasty, sarcastic lines sung by Eva on stage were either expunged or given to another character. She was made to look like a victim instead of victimizer. Very frustrating. So now, tonight's show. A revival is not a recreation, so there was a lot that was different from the original stage production. I did find myself comparing the two, and I still prefer what I saw in the 80's. But this production did not disappoint me. You need a strong leading lady to play Eva, and two strong men to counterbalance her performance. I did not know what to expect from Michael Cerveris as Peron. I know he has an impressive Broadway pedigree, but I know him only as the Observer on "Fringe". Ricky Martin as Che sounded like stunt casting. And Elena Roger is an unknown quality as far as I am concerned. Didn't like her performance, I didn't think she was dynamic enough. And her voice isn't strong in the upper ranges. On the other hand, loved the guys, especially Martin. Didn't know if he could transition from pop to the theater. He was amazing. Loved the sets. Very lavish, it felt like Argentina. The song Weber wrote for the movie, "You Must Love Me", has been added to the score, and it works better here than it did in the film. What I really liked was the use of the Argentine tango, the dance serving as a metaphor for sex and power and how the two are intertwined. Tango steps even show up in the waltz between Eva and Che. It's fundraising season for Broadway Cares. Cerveris gave the collection speech in English and in Spanish -- which pleased the heavily Hispanic audience. Drew bought a poster autographed by the entire cast. He's going to hang it next to the one he bought when we saw "How To Succeed" last year. All in all, another wonderful NYC night.


2 comments:

Suzanne said...

That commercial was spectacular in its simplicity, I loved it as well. Never got to see the original (though we saw quite a few shows in that time period, my dad wasn't that big a fan of the ALW shows.)

Ahhh, I see that when you and I get to meet up and go out together, we'll be two of a kind. I tend to sing the harmony lines when we go out for live music performances...

songbird's crazy world said...

So when are you coming?

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