Thursday, December 21, 2006

New York December 2006, Day Three: "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" and "Don't Quit Your Night Job"

Sometimes people get together out of the love of doing something, and decide that on their own they will create something, put something on stage to share with others. They don't expect the kind of box office that big time producers do. They hope people will come and enjoy, but unless they are certifiably insane, they keep their expectations low.

I saw two such shows today. Labors of love. One successful, one not so much. Let's start with the less successful attempt.

"The Big Voice: God or Merman?" is the story of two men who devoted their lives to the theater -- and each other. One is a Catholic boy from Brooklyn who wanted to be pope, the other grew up Baptist and went to bible college with the goal of being a preacher. Being gay stood in the way of all that, but somehow they found each other and had successes (a show that made it to Broadway) and setbacks (AIDS) in their life together. On the positive side, these two men telling their own story do so with great honesty and very little self-consciousness. Unfortunately, the songs they wrote for this show are mostly unimaginative and tuneless. (Or rather, minor variations of the same tune and rhythm.)

"Don't Quit Your NIght Job" is a semi-regular improv cabaret held at Joe's Pub for the purpose of raising money for charity. The cast is made up of young performers from Broadway musicals, including "Spamalot," "The 25th Annual Putnam Country Spelling Bee," "The Producers" and "Wicked," among others. They do spoof songs and other comic bits (tonight included an hilarious bit with the 9-year old who plays "Chip" in "Beauty and the Beast" doing a selection from the new Stoppard trilogy "The Coast of Utopia" and a musical takeoff in which Mel Gibson's new movie is done with an island beat: "Apocalypso."), but the mainstay is improv. Improv can be great, but it can also be deadly. In fact, if it's not great, it usually IS deadly. Tonight's offering was anything but. My cheeks hurt several times because I couldn't stop laughing. More information (if you're interested) here.

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