Night on the Town!

So after Juilliard (you may want to read today’s posts backwards, that way they’ll be more chronological-like), I made my way down to Times Square to meet my friend Ricky for an evening of Assassins and burgers. Who should I encounter on my way?

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Two zany prostitutes hawking their wares!

Just kidding. These are my friends Dana W. and Lisa. You may remember Lisa from that time I stayed with her. She’s on the right. Dana’s on the left. We had a lovely chat. You’ll be seeing Lisa again tomorrow for lunch.

Then I made my way over to Studio 54 where Ricky and I went to see Assassins:

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What follows is a brief review of the show which, because this is a food blog, requires a click for its non-conforming content.

I was a late Stephen Sondheim convert. The worst show I had ever seen was an evening of Sondheim songs called “Putting it Together,” starring Carol Burnett and Bronson Pinchot in the most pretentious production ever.

Then my concerned friends–Ricky and Josh Tarkan, mostly–pushed their Sondheim agenda on me.

“Listen, Adam, listen,” they would say, “He’s brilliant.”

And somewhere along the line I found myself agreeing. Was it “Assassins”? “Sweeney Todd”? “A Little Night Music”? “Into The Woods”?

They’re all brilliant. I think “Sweeney Todd” is the best written of them all–perhaps the greatest piece of musical theater writing ever. Notice that I say writing. That becomes important in the next paragraph.

You see, what I realized tonight about Stephen Sondheim is that he’s a great maker of musical theater texts. His lyrics are so deft, his music so challenging that it takes great concentration and dedication to really appreciate his sorcery. Which doesn’t mean that he makes great shows.

“Assassins,” I thought as I watched it, is something to admire not something to love. You can admire the craftsmanship and skill that it took to put it together, you can admire the precision of the acting or the genius of the sets. But you can’t love it. You can’t even applaud comfortably. How can you applaud someone who just shot a president?

If you don’t know, “Assassins” is an American fantasia where all of history’s Assassins gather at a shooting gallery and are enjoined by a Balladeer to shoot a president. “Everyone’s got the right to be happy,” he sings.

Some of the lyrics in “Assassins” are pure genius. I love the rhyme scheme in “How I Saved Roosevelt: “Or we’d have been left bereft of FDR.”

The John Wilkes Booth number is a glorious piece of theater writing. It really gets deep into what motivated history’s premier assassin:

“Hunt me down

Smear my name

say I did it for the fame

What I did was kill the man who killed our country.

Now the Southland can mend

Now this bloody war can end

Because someone slew the tyrant

Just as Brutus slew the tyrant…”

My recommendation to you all, then, is to just go out–if this sounds interesting–and buy the “Assassins” CD. Because Sondheim is such a textual writer, you can get 90% of the enjoyment you would get out of seeing the production from simply studying and savoring the CD. And when you’re done studying and savoring, come to NY and see this production if it’s still playing. (I’m not sure the audience really got what was happening or that they enjoyed it. Which goes to the whole Sondheim writes great texts, not great theater). Plus Neil Patrick Harris and Mario Cantone are in it.

Afterwards, Ricky and I went to a theater district dinnerspot next to The Producers:

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And we had hamburgers:

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That stuff on the burger is boursain, a cheese with chives and garlic that really tasted great.