Broadway's Season Of Adventure

Nov 23, 2013
Originally published on December 16, 2013 5:24 pm
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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.


SIMON: The fall season is underway on Broadway. And NPR's Trey Graham may still be just a little glassy-eyed, because he took in five shows over a three-day weekend. He joins us in our studios. Trey, thanks for making time for us.

TREY GRAHAM, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: Let's begin with what's become a real sensation. There are two repertories that are now playing on Broadway at the moment. You saw "Twelfth Night," as staged by the Globe, Shakespeare's Globe Company at the Belasco. They're also staging "Richard III" - and they're doing it Elizabethan-style, which means...

GRAHAM: It means natural light, musicians on stage, the audience can come in a little bit early and see the actors putting their makeup on. It's lively. It's very funny.

SIMON: And Mark Rylance is in this production.

GRAHAM: And Mark Rylance is the lead, but...

SIMON: One of the best actors I've ever seen on stage, yeah.

GRAHAM: Tony-winning actor, and he is not playing Duke Orsino. He's playing Olivia.

SIMON: Which is, I guess, also Elizabethan-style, isn't it...

GRAHAM: Yes. That's the trick. It's being done with an all-male cast. And it's a wonderfully sensitive performance; so in the moment, discovering words and emotions. You can see them play across his face. It's just really delightful.

SIMON: I have been told, as good as Mark Rylance can ever be, that Stephen Fry as Malvolio walks away with the show.

GRAHAM: He is certainly trying to. Malvolio is sort of the buffoon of the play, but he's also one of the core pieces of heart in the play, and I think Stephen Fry really sort of gets to the character's dignity, so that when he's humiliated, you really feel for him.

SIMON: You took in two different - and I mean really different - musicals, I gather. Let's go first to "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder," which you say is delightful.

GRAHAM: It is delightful. It's a kind of throwback. I've been telling people it's basically Gilbert and Sullivan if they did "Sweeney Todd." It's based on the same source material as - film buffs will remember Alec Guinness in a movie called "Kind Hearts and Coronets," where he plays eight characters who are being offed one by one by the young man who has discovered that he has a distant connection to this noble family. In this production, Jefferson Mays, he's playing the eight or nine characters, and he's doing it very stylishly indeed.

SIMON: And tell us about "Fun Home," which is at the Public. It's based on a graphic novel.

GRAHAM: It is based on a graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. It's a very serious musical, but there are laughs. And it tells you right up front what it's about.


SIMON: That's not exactly the bright golden haze in the meadow, is it?

GRAHAM: No, it's not. The music is by Jeanine Tesori, who, with Tony Kushner, wrote "Caroline, or Change," which is also a very knotty, complicated musical. This is really heartwarming. It's about this woman interrogating her own past and coming to terms with what she finds. And it's pulling the audience to it and it's been extended a couple of times. It's going to run, I think, through the end of December.

SIMON: That's a relatively small-scale production. But tell us about "Nothing To Hide," 'cause that's even smaller. This is - Neil Patrick Harris directed this.

GRAHAM: He did indeed. It's two young up-close magicians doing card tricks. And it has a very Neil Patrick Harris kind of sensibility. It's a little wry, a little dry and it kind of pokes you in the shoulder and says, don't you miss your sense of wonder? Let me show you how much you do. And the beginning of the show is this wonderful silent trick. They just walk out, sit down at the table opposite each other and start turning over cards. And as you figure out what the trick is going to be, they make it build until you keep going, oh, that's what they're going to do next? They just did that next. Oh, that's so amazing. They're kind of playing here with magic in the same way that Cirque du Soleil maybe plays with the old-fashioned circus act. They're really using it to engage your mind and your heart.

SIMON: Yeah. And does this wind up expanding what we call theater?

GRAHAM: It does a little bit. It's not traditional theater, but then a lot of what's going on in New York right now - on Broadway and off - isn't what you would call traditional theater. There's a big tent show where people are sitting in a tent at cafe tables. It's called "Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812." There's a thing called "La Soiree," which is bar service tables near the stage. It's got burlesque and sideshow and variety, and frankly it's an insane season. I need to go back and do another weekend like this in the next couple of weeks because there's so much I haven't seen yet that still looks so appetizing.

SIMON: All right. Well, we'll look forward to having you back. NPR's Trey Graham. Thanks so much.

GRAHAM: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.