Diary of a Theatre Addict: (Not Quite) Taking a Theatre Break

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I’m finally on holiday — for the last six years now, my husband and I have made an annual visit to Provincetown (or P-town, as it is usually abbreviated) on the farthest tip of Cape Cod, reached by a 90 minute ferry ride from Boston.

I usually take this time off from going to the theatre as much as I can. But this year, I have succumbed to the lure of theatre several times over. Last Friday, the first day we got here, Norm Lewis was appearing here in conversation and song with musical director and Broadway personality Seth Rudetsky, in the intimate environs of the P-town Arthouse, whose annual Broadway series — produced by Mark Cortale — this year has also already included Laura Osnes, Sutton Foster, Lea DeLaria, Sam Harris and opera diva Deborah Voigt, with Kerry Butler, Christine Pedi,  Jane Krakowski and Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner (reunited from the original production of Sideshow) still to come.

Cortale is also presenting a few, even more high profile, shows at Provincetown Town Hall, including Neil Patrick Harris and husband David Burtka tonight and tomorrow (yes, I’m going!), and Audra McDonald and husband Will Swenson (on August 24, and God, do I wish I were going!). I actually saw Audra do one of Seth Rudetsky’s Q&A cabarets a couple of years ago, and it was one of the highlights of the trip.

Rudetsy is an amazing interviewer — full of knowledge and random references to the person’s career who is interviewing. (I’ve seen him do the same routine with Patti LuPone in London once, which elicited a truly hilarious story about co-starring with Sherie Rene Scott in the original Broadway production of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown that it would be impolite to re-tell here…..) And Norm Lewis, who appeared in the West End as Javert in Les Miserables as well as in the 25th anniversary performance at the 02, is a truly wonderful singer, too: Rudetsky introduced him as the best Broadway male voice of the last 30 years, and it’s hard to disagree.

Johnny Mathis is, Lewis said, his inspiration, and he has the same mellow, effortless way with a song. There’s a pure and total connection with his songs and purity of tone throughout. He sang ‘Stars’ and ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Mis, as well as songs from A New Brain (that he took over the lead in, and recorded the cast album of), Porgy and Bess (that he last appeared on Broadway opposite Audra McDonald in, and I saw both in Cambridge during its pre-Broadway try-out en route to another trip to P-town, and twice again on Broadway) and David Friedman’s extraordinary ‘We Live on Borrowed Time’ that he called his favourite song. I’m so glad I borrowed some time with him.

The next morning my friend Bruce Glikas (a Broadway photographer), my husband Mark and I had breakfast with Lewis (pictured left), and he was as charming in person as he was onstage. We also made a day-trip back to Boston yesterday, for another Cambridge try-out at American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T) of a new musical called Waitress, with a score by singer-songwriter Sara Bareillis, that stars Jessie Mueller (Tony winner for the original Broadway production of Beautiful). Its still previewing, but I bought a ticket so I’m free to say: I loved it! I hope Broadway beckons, and soon.

Broadway stars feature strongly on the dance card here in P-town; another promoter at the Crown and Anchor also stages an annual Broadway series now, whose bill this year has already featured Bernadette Peters, Barbara Cook, Jennifer Holliday, Jeremy Jordan and Linda Lavin. Tomorrow I’m seeing Shirley Jones as part of that season, and still to come (though not when I’m here) are Billy Porter, Kathy Griffin and Charles Busch.

But that’s it — I’m not planning on any more theatre in P-town, at least. And last week in New York, I actually had two nights off from the theatre entirely — a first for me! But I nevertheless managed two shows across the three days I was there, catching On the Town (for the fourth time — my favourite revival since Pippin, which later last week announced its closing for September 6, after 28 previews and 368 regular performances) and a press performance of Hamilton (for the third time — I’d also seen it twice downtown at the Public, ahead of its official opening on Thursday).

And the night before I travelled to New York, I caught a preview of Grand Hotel at Southwark Playhouse— with the permission of the director and producer, I hasten to add, so in reviewing it for The Stage here, I was hardly breaking any Hamlet-like embargoes as erupted last week, and I wrote about here.

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Mark Shenton
Mark Shenton has been a full-time freelance London-based theatre critic and journalist since 2002, and is proud to have co-founded MyTheatreMates with Terri Paaddock. He has variously (and sometimes simultaneously) been chief theatre critic for the Sunday Express, The Stage, WhatsOnStage, What's On in London magazine and LondonTheatre.co.uk. He has taught at ArtsEd London in Chiswick on musical theatre history since 2012. He was until recently President of the Critics' Circle, and is also on the board of Mercury Musical Developments and the National Student Drama Festival (NSDF). You can follow him on Twitter @ShentonStage, and on instagram at @ShentonStage. His personal website is www.shentonstage.com.

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Mark Shenton on FacebookMark Shenton on RssMark Shenton on Twitter
Mark Shenton
Mark Shenton has been a full-time freelance London-based theatre critic and journalist since 2002, and is proud to have co-founded MyTheatreMates with Terri Paaddock. He has variously (and sometimes simultaneously) been chief theatre critic for the Sunday Express, The Stage, WhatsOnStage, What's On in London magazine and LondonTheatre.co.uk. He has taught at ArtsEd London in Chiswick on musical theatre history since 2012. He was until recently President of the Critics' Circle, and is also on the board of Mercury Musical Developments and the National Student Drama Festival (NSDF). You can follow him on Twitter @ShentonStage, and on instagram at @ShentonStage. His personal website is www.shentonstage.com.

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