Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stage Door at 'Once' Musical with Steve Kazee

The Hopeful Traveler with 'Once' musical star Steve Kazee.
It's past 11pm this Saturday night and after seeing 'One Man, Two Guvnors' the star of the play James Corden appeared detained to greet those waiting at the stage door. Across the street the crowd had dispersed that met the cast of the musical 'Once' and meeting every last person waiting was its leading man Steve Kazee.

I had seen the 'Once' at the matinee today and thoroughly loved it (read my review by clicking HERE). But I opted to return to my hotel to rest since I had not feeling well the past couple of days. But I was feeling much better this evening.

Since Corden appeared delayed, I headed to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre where 'Once' is playing and was able to ask for a photo with the actor. Sadly I lacked my playbill so I lost the opportunity for an autograph.

I first saw Kazee perform in the Broadway production of 'Spamalot' in 2006 where he played one of the replacements in the role of Lancelot. A year later in 2007, I got a chance to see the revival of the musical '110 in the Shade' during its limited run where Kazee played Starbuck his first original leading role on Broadway. In that production all the performing laurels were placed on leading actress Audra McDonald but Kazee displayed he was leading man material even with unfortunate greasy long hair of the character. But something magical happened on stage when he performed the song "Melisande" where the audience could see the actor's inherent charm to win the heart of Lizze played by McDonald.

Watch the interview below with Steve Kazee from

Review: 'One Man, Two Guvnors' Hired at the Music Theatre on Broadway

(photo: TheHopefulTraveler)
James Corden (Francis Henshall)
(production photos: Joan Marcus)
Oliver Chris (right), with James Corden,
 plays Stanley Stubbers, one of the two
The comic bliss of ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ on stage at the Music Box Theatre will leave theatergoers lifted to uproarious heights. Most of the fun is owed to actor James Corden in the title role.

The show opens with and is peppered throughout during scene changes with Skiffle songs written by Grant Olding and performed by Jason Rabinowitz, lead vocals; Charlie Rosen, bass; Jacob Colin Cohen, drums/percussion; and Austin Moorhead, lead guitar. The songs capture the spirit of play’s time period and location and is a sly set-up for the audience to let down their guard for the forthcoming hijinks. Coiffed and groomed as clean cut musicians they make up the faux group the Craze and they perform like they’ve been pros at the genre of music. The infectious songs are actually better than some in recent original Broadway musicals. Not to lose a moment for fun, the actors get into the act during some musical numbers by singing or playing instruments (or for one actor playing himself).

But it’s the arrival of Corden that will mainly keep the audience laughing out loud. It’s hard to imagine the poor understudy who has to live up to Corden’s performance when he cannot play a performance. Corden displays the gift of comic timing, deft improvisation, wise interaction with the audience and energetic physical comedy. Few actors can command the stage alone but Corden does so with lovable aplomb as when Francis argues with himself including a fighting body roll across the stage and ending with a slap to his own face.

‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ tells of the permanently ravenous Francis Henshall (Corden) who finds himself working for both a gangster and criminal in hiding, both of whom are linked in a web of schemes, extortions and romantic associations. To prevent discovery, Francis must do everything he can keep his two guvnors apart.
(story continued below)

The Craze (left to right): Charlie Rosen, Jacob Colin Cohen, Austin
Moorhead and Jason Rabinowitz.
Suzie Toase (Dolly), Oliver Chris, James Corden and Jamima Rooper
(Rachel Crabbe), whose alter ego is the one of the two guvnors.
Play is authored by Richard Bean who adapted the story from the 1743 comedy “Servant of Two Masters” by Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni. With director Nicholas Hytner the two have crafted a play re-set to Brighton, England 1963 where, to borrow the words of the director himself from a recent interview: there is no substance and has nothing to say about the human condition; it is completely unsophisticated; it’s old-fashioned low comedy. The point of it all is to have merry good-old time.

James Corden.
After 18 years of Broadway theatergoing, my history of truly amusing comedic plays and individual performances are limited but I have seen some that are among the best evenings I have ever spent at the theatre: ‘Moon Over Buffalo’ (1996) with Carol Burnett; ‘Boeing-Boeing’ (2008) with Mark Rylance; and the 2001 revival of ‘Noises Off’ featuring an ensemble of theatre pros. I’m happy to include among this elite group ‘One Man’.

Corden is such a tremendous comic talent on stage that if not careful the audience could be worn out by the end of the first act. But Corden, Bean and Hytner paces the audience so there is a true arc to the feel of story even it lacks any depth. The audience is left on a high with a classic act one closer where Francis is forced to serve dinner to his two masters at the same time while keeping them apart. Food flying and doors slamming combined with the an old waiter with the shakes and a purported member of the audience create a sense of suspense of how far will the crazy antics be taken.

The wonderful supporting cast also imported from England ably keeps the action moving even when Corden is absent from a scene. Faring best among them are Tom Edden who nearly steals the spotlight from Corden as Alfie, the shaky waiter; and Suzie Toase playing a lusty voiced love interest for Francis. As his two guvnors, Oliver Chris fares better than Jemima Rooper who has the more difficult task of playing the gender bending one of the two. Claire Lams as the dim fiancee to one of the the guvnors, Daniel Rigby as an overly dramatic acting actor and Trevor Laird as an Anglo-African pub owner shine in their brief scenes.
(story continued below)

Oliver Chris (left) and Tom Edden as Alfie the waiter.
Suzie Toase and James Corden
The proceedings do slow down for just a bit late in the second act if not by sheer exhaustion from the laughter or to give Corden a breather by giving him some offstage time but things quickly perk-up to wrap up the story where all deceptions are revealed.

There has been some debate about how improvised the scenes are with the audience. Obviously a certain amount is planned but Corden is ready for anything the audience is ready to serve up including from those who have previous knowledge of these scenes.

Technical elements help bring Brighton in the 1960s to life from the sets and costumes by Mark Thompson to the aforementioned music of Olding. But it’s the ensemble that captures the innocence of the play and the time.

One of the many reasons I love live theater is when it’s so great it enables the audience to completely lose and immerse themselves in the world being lived on stage. ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ goes one better to make the world seem simple and endlessly funny and if only for a couple hours allows us to forget all our worries other than if poor Francis will find something to eat.


(left to right): Trevor Laird as the pub owner Lloyd Boateng, Oliver
Chris and Jemima Rooper.
(l to r): James Corden, Suzie Toase, Claire Lams, Oliver Chris, Jemima Rooper,
Daniel Rigby, Trevor Laird, Martyn Ellis and Red Ridgeway. 
James Corden
Oliver Chris, Tom Edden and James Corden.

Video: 'One Man, Two Guvnors' at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway

Here are videos of 'One Man, Two Guvnors' now playing on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre. The hit play won a Tony Award for its leading man James Corden. A review of the production follows in the next post. The first video features clips from the London production. The second clip is about the original songs that capture the time period of the show. The last is the full episode of Theatre Talk with Corden, playwright Richard Bean and director Nicholas Hytner.

Venue: Music Box Theatre Hires 'One Man, Two Guvnors' on Broadway

(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
The Music Box Theatre was the place of one of the worst Broadway productions I have ever seen. More about that later. This venue is another jewel in the family of Shubert Organization's Broadway theatres. Despite its melodic name, the limited seating capacity has made the theatre more ideal to house plays than musicals. The theatre was built in 1921 for the Music Box Revue from which it takes its name.

After a restoration of the interior a few years ago, both the dignified limestone interior and elegant interior make it one the more beautiful theatres on Broadway. The theatre seats 1009 on two levels. Twin staircases takes visitors from the orchestra level to the lower level lounge, bar and restrooms.

Some of the productions to premiere at the Music Box Theatre include: 'August: Osage County' (2008); 'Blood Brothers' (1993); 'A Few Good Men' (1989); 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses' (1987); 'Agnes of God' (1982); 'Deathtrap' (1978); and 'Sleuth' (1970).

I've seen only three productions at the Music Box: the stage version of Rogers and Hammerstein's film musical 'State Fair' (1996) starring John Davidson and Andrea McArdle; the first Broadway revival of 'Lend Me A Tenor' (2010) starring Justin Bartha, Anthony LaPaglia, Tony Shalhoub and Brooke Adams; and the show which has come to hold a memory of one the most laborious and longest evenings I have ever experienced at a theater, Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' (2000) starring Kelsey Grammer. The show only played 13 performances and 8 previews and included among the cast Diane Venora, Ty Burrell and Michael Gross. The tragedy play was originally slated for the larger Virginia Theatre (now the August Wilson Theatre) but was moved to the Virginia after seats were already sold. I remember ushers almost randomly assigning ticket buyers to seats throughout the theatre with no logic. The show closed while I was still in New York for my vacation that year and remember seeing the remnants of the set sitting in dumpsters outside the theatre the day after it shuttering.

Added to the list of productions the play the Music Box is current tenant and English import 'One Man, Two Guvnors' which I am seeing tonight.

Click HERE for a seating chart and more information about the Music Box Theatre. Official online ticketing is handled through Telecharge.

(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)

Review: 'Once' Musical Shines at the Jacobs Theatre

(photo: TheHopefulTraveler)

Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti.
(all production photos: Joan Marcus)
There’s a bittersweet longing that pervades ‘Once’, the new musical now playing on Broadway and based on the 2006 feature film. That longing aches, breaks and moves the heart. This is one of the most beautiful musicals to come by in a long time.

I have to admit I was not a fan of the independently made movie. It felt drawn out and far too restrained. Reading that the audience at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre is invited on stage pre-show and at intermission to purchase drinks made the experience sound like it would be a mere novelty. It is not at all.

Cristin Milioti and Steve Kazee
Book writer Enda Walsh with director John Tiffany have adapted the screenplay by John Carney and given the story a sense of urgency without betraying its source material set in Dublin of two people who develop an unexpected relationship through music. Tiffany draws the audience immediately into ‘Once’ with a pre-show jam session by cast members.

Steve Kazee, known as Guy in the musical, plays an Irish musician who finds a collaborator in Cristi Milioti’s Girl, a Czech immigrant, over the course of one fateful week. They bring a complex world of weariness to their characters but also a sense of tremendous hope.

Kazee has proven he is leading man material only hinted at in the 2007 Broadway revival of ‘110 In The Shade.’ Manly, attractive and charming he conveys the character’s anguish in his musical numbers, most notably in “Leave” and “Say It To Me Now”. Guy is even given a piece of fun with the brief melody called “Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy.”

Milioti’s role could have easily fallen into caricature but her gentle portrayal and convincing accent makes the character believable. She reveals a sorrow displayed in the songs “If You Want Me” and “The Hill.” The on stage chemistry between Kazee and Milioti is undeniable. Their portrayals are subtle but always engaging.

The show sounds like it could be a downer but Walsh has peppered the plot with enough comic relief and eccentric supporting characters to keep the audience from falling into a depression.

Cristin Milioti, Anne L. Nathan and Steve Kazee.
The cast of 'Once'
There is no orchestra. The entire cast plays a character and at least one instrument. Never coming across as a stunt, these cast members/musicians meld magnificently in music and movement in the act one closer “Gold” that swells into high spirits and sweeping musical staging.

Credit goes to Martin Lowe for orchestrations that reinvigorate the original songs from the film. Songwriters Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who played Guy and Girl in the movie, have contributed additional songs for the musical. If you fell in love with the Oscar-winning song “Falling Slowly” you’ll find other treasures worth repeated listening in the score.

The entire musical takes place in a Dublin bar that spans the width of the stage with a back wall lined with frosted mirrors. The ingenious Bob Crowley has made a one-set destination that fulfills the multiple scene requirements and has the actors costumed appropriately to portray the Dublin bar crowd. One pivotal scene takes place above the bar to reveal a scene at night dotted with flickering starlight. By the way there are no subtitles when Czech is spoken except for a few words translated during this scene.

Seeing ‘Once’ is a transcendent experience that inspires us to overcome regrets. The unconventional love story, stirring music and dynamic casts merge in impeccable combination for a production that uplifts the soul.


  • Website:
  • Where: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
  • Location: 242 West 45th St
  • When: Tue 7pm; Wed-Sat 8pm; Wed & Sat 2pm; Sun 3pm
  • Running Time: 2 hrs 30 min
  • Ticket Prices: $60-$157 (premium $199.50-$252.00)
  • Opening: Mar 18, 2012 (previews Feb 28, 2012)
  • Closing: Open Ended
  • Book Online:
  • Ticket Services: 1-800-432-7250
  • Cast Recording: Original Broadway Cast Recording

Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti
Steve Kazee and Paul Witty
Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti
Anne L. Nathan, Will Connolly, Cristin Milioti,
Elizabeth A. Davis and Lucas Paelias.
Paul Witty and Elizabeth A. Davis
Steve Kazee (center) and the cast of 'Once'.
The cast of 'Once'
Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti
David Patrick Kelly and the cast of 'Once'.

Video: 'Once' Musical at the Jacobs Theatre

Videos of the new musical 'Once' based on the feature film and now playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on Broadway. Review of the musical will be published in the next post.

Venue: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre Shows Us 'Once'

(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
The Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre opened in 1927 as the Royale Theatre. That name stuck for most of the theatre's history except from 1934 to 1940 when impresario John Golden named the theater for himself during his ownership. In 2005 the Royale was renamed to honor of the president of the Shubert Organization which owns and operates the venue as well as seventeen other Broadway theaters.

This mid-size house seats 1,078 on two levels and is popular for both plays and very intimate musicals. Some of the productions to open at the theatre include: 'Frost/Nixon' (2007), 'Three Days of Rain (2006) which brought movie actress Julia Roberts to the New York stage; 'Art' (1998); 'An Inspector Calls' (1994); 'Lend Me A Tenor' (1989); 'Speed-the-Plow' (1988) which featured singer Madonna in her only Broadway appearance; Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Song and Dance' (1985) starring Bernadette Peters and 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1982).

The productions I have seen at the venue: the Johnny Mercer review 'Dream' (1997) starring Lesley Anne Warren; the revival of 'night, Mother' (2004) starring Edie Falco and Brenda Blethyn; 'Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me' (2006); 'God of Carnage' (2009) starring Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden; and today's performance of 'Once'.

Click HERE for seating chart and more info about the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. Restrooms are located down one flight of stairs from the orchestra level. The aisle behind the orchestra level is a bar and, when available, a concession stand selling show merchandise.

(photos: TheHopefulTraveler) Beta or The Telecharge Paradox: Which is The Real Price for This Seat or Ticket?

In the Ticket Search History seat L113 is listed at $166.75.
(photo: TheHopefulTraveler), one of the two official online ticket sellers for Broadway theaters and many Off-Broadway productions, is testing a new version of its website now in the beta phase. On certain days I noticed the beta version may or may not be available. But the older version of the site is still up and I am guessing it will be removed once the testing phase is complete.

When I began purchasing tickets for this trip back in April, I tried using the beta version and found it clunky to use. I have to admit I probably was so used to the old version that it'll take some practice before I'm comfortable with the beta site.

So I want to bring up something unusual that happened during my online purchase of a ticket to the new musical 'Once' using Telecharge a couple of weeks ago. It was the last show I needed to book and I found an available seat that was showing two different prices.

It looks like since winning the Tony Award for best musical most of the best seats, even those farther back in the orchestra, have been designated as premium priced seats. So I found the best seat available among those premium seats which was an aisle seat in the center orchestra and made the selection. This is when I saw something weird. When I pointed my cursor on the seat in the 3D seating diagram on the website, the price shown for the single ticket was $275 which is the cost of premium seats. When I pointed my cursor to the Ticket Search History list, I was shown a different price of $166.75 which is the top ticket price for non-premium seats.

I wasn't about to pay $275 if I could buy the ticket for $166.75. So I picked the lower price, my order went through and I got my email confirmation. This was for orchestra seat L114. For a moment I wondered if just misread the prices. So I tried to see what happened if I tried to purchase the seat next to mine (L113) which was still available. The same thing happened. Two different prices depending where I pointed my cursor ($275 and $166.75).

So as proof I took photos of my computer monitor screen which I have included in this post. It was probably a fluke but no doubt I'll be pointing my cursor in both places in the future just in case.

In these photos, the same seat is being shown to cost $275.00.
(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)

5 Napkin Burger: Just the Bacon Cheeseburger Please

Bacon-Cheddar burger with hand cut fries.
 Restaurant is located at the corner of 45th Street and 8th Avenue.(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
The first time I dined at Five Napkin Burger was in the summer of 2009 and I knew I would be back. Who know it would take me three years before returning. Despite having a selection of sushi maki rolls and salads, it's the burgers that is the purpose of my visit.

I normally consider an appetizer and think ahead about dessert. Though my appetite was returning after feeling ill the past couple of days, it wasn't a hundred percent yet. I was hungry but I knew my limit was probably just going to be an entree.

A Bacon-Cheddar burger ($14.95; 8 oz fresh ground beef, black label bacon, sharp cheddar, raw onion, lettuce, tomato, soft white roll) which is served with hand cut fries ordered with a coke ($3) became my meal for lunch. There's nothing negative to say about this succulent burger patty and generous cut of bacon. It's one of the best burgers I've ever tasted. Juicy and flavorful through and through. And what is is about thinly cut fries served hot and freshly salted that keeps you eating one after another till they're gone.

Like other popular restaurants on Eight Avenue in Hell's Kitchen, the place does fill quickly during peak meal times but don't be afraid to inquire if a table is available or if you're willing to dine at one of the sidewalk tables. The dining room resembles a remodeled butcher's shop but the seating and chairs warms the atmosphere.

Visit for more information and other locations. The Hell's Kitchen restaurant located at 630 9th Ave at 4th Street is open Mon-Fri 11:30am-Midnight; Sat and Sun 11:00am-Midnight; a la carte brunch Sat and Sun 11:00am-4:00pm. Click HERE for menus.

Dining Room.
Seating along 45th Street.
Seating along 8th Avenue.

Sixth Avenue Street Fair: Fourteen Blocks of Food and Shopping

(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
 Today I'm feeling way better than I did two days ago. Still I knew I shouldn't over exert myself and decided not to stray far. What better way to spend a warm morning in New York City than under the cooling shade of the buildings along Sixth Avenue for a street fair that stretches from 42nd to 56th Streets. This fair even leads you right in front of world famous Radio City Music Hall.

Though many of the vendors are selling the same stuff every block at least you'll never go hungry with food sellers everything from gyros to fruit smoothies. I opted to continue eating healthy and staying hydrated by buying not one but two watermelon fruit smoothes along the way ($4 each).

From artwork to cell phone covers to popcorn, there's something at these fairs that'll peak your interest if not encourage you to open your wallet or purse.

These fairs that closes long stretches of major thoroughfares in the city happen regularly and an online search can inform you of the time and location of each event. The website NYC Tourist keeps and updated schedule that you can view by clicking HERE.

(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)

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