Tuesday, July 8, 2008

When I was a kid...

...my family would often make the very long trip (at the time, it seemed like a very long trip, even though I do that same commute via train every day now) from our home in New York City to the New Jersey Shore.

We would do what any cool, modern family would do during car trips.

We would listen to showtunes.

Lots and lots of showtunes.

(Actually, we alternated between showtunes and Frank Sinatra.)

My parents, compared to the parents of my peers, have always been extremely cool. (In fact, I think they were a lot cooler than I ever was.) My dad was athletic and brilliant and witty, and my mom is constantly telling me to loosen-up and stop acting like an eighty-five year old. (I really do. I am not going to deny that.)

However...despite their cool factor...they did embrace an intense love of Broadway musicals...as illustrated by our musical theatre sing-alongs in the car. (My sister managed to escape the trap and, to this day, doesn't care so much for showtunes OR Frank Sinatra. I think it's because she had a Walkman to listen to...and it was probably New Kids on the Block...while I had no choice but to be exposed to Rodgers and Hammerstein and Ol'Blue Eyes.)

Most people do not equate Broadway showtunes with hip and modern...but Broadway showtunes were always a part of our hip and modern household.

I specifically remember one album we had that we would listen to on almost every trip. It was probably "American Musical Theatre: the 1950 and 1960's" or something and it had songs from West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof...and Damn Yankees.

West Side Story would become one of my all-time favorite musicals and Fiddler on the Roof would give me some of my favorite cleaning music ("Matchmaker, Matchmaker" is really great to vacuum to...)

However, apart from singing along to "Whatever Lola Wants" from Damn Yankees, I never quite got into the show...never saw it onstage or watched the movie...and except from watching a VHS of my cousin Amanda when she was in the show in high school (she played the reporter), I wasn't a fan of the show...I wasn't really familiar with it. It was one of the few musicals I couldn't sing the entire score to and didn't really know the story of.

Until now.

Until City Center decided to take a DYNAMITE cast and put them in Damn Yankees for three fantastic weeks. I have already seen the show twice, and will be back.

Anybody who has read this blog within the past year (and considering how many random people comment on this blog, and the amount of high school friends I haven't spoken to in years who, for some reason, googled me and found it and admitted to be reading it even though we lost touch...I think that sounds a little odd, personally, and wouldn't admit to it if I were them...and the stories that come-up at family dinners when I learned that my cousins all read it too...it's actually quite a lot of people), would know that there is a certain young New York City stage actor that I hold in very high regard, both professionally and personally...Mr. Cheyenne Jackson.

The boy's got magic!

I first became familiar with Cheyenne when he was in the ensemble of Thoroughly Modern Millie about six years ago. Since then, I've have the pleasure of seeing him in almost everything he's done in the city, and on the big screen in United 93. I think he has some serious, pure star quality...plus, he is one of the nicest guys on earth as well, unaffected and caring and just a lovely, lovely person.

I think this is one of those classic roles that Cheyenne Jackson was born to play. I often feel like I was born in the wrong era, but I'm sure even if I was born in the "right" era, I would still be a complete spaz...while Cheyenne Jackson fits into 1955 absolutely perfectly.

He leaves you forgetting that the likes of Troy Donahue and John Saxon (random 1950's movie star. Aside from listening to showtunes all the time, I also used to watch my share of old movies) ever existed.



He plays the role with such a lovely innocence and charm and it is very easy to see why he has come so far in just five years of being in New York City. And that voice...that voice...THAT VOICE!

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Okay, I was a Will and Grace fan for years (for some really odd reason, I was attracted to that whole "wacky girl with big curly hair who is surrounded by gay guys" thing). My sister's dog's name is Jack...but I do not call him Jack...I call him JustJack. Sean Hayes as JustJack ALWAYS makes me laugh...and as I watched him play the Devil in Damn Yankees, I realized something...JustJack? Is just a character! Sean Hayes was ACTING all those years. (Who knew!) Now, had I realized that years ago, I would have been campaigning for Sean Hayes to win the Emmy for his work as Jack McFarland every year! The guy is a great actor!!! He is wonderful in the musical, can sing and bang that piano, is charmingly evil, and, with his blue-blue-blue eyes, he is terribly cute.

Well done, Mr. Hayes!

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On to Jane Krakowski.

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If you know me, you know I love my Lifetime movies. (Drugged with allergy medicine last weekend, I kept nodding-off and waking-up during "Give Me Back My Baby Sunday", which makes you really really confused and start blending all the movies together.) Jane was once in a Lifetime movie about a teen girl who realizes that she cannot take care of her baby, so she gives it to her infertile guidance counselor. Jane, of course, played the infertile guidance counselor.

(Seriously, if I had a baby I couldn't take care of, I'd definitely give him to my infertile guidance counselor.)

I must admit, I haven't seen Jane in anything else, not even a single episode of 30 Rock (don't hit me!) or Ally McBeal. (I WILL be catching Kitt Kittridge this week, though...)

Just as Cheyenne Jackson is a perfect fit for Joe Hardy, Jane Krakowski makes a fantastic Lola (by the way...that's my dog's name. Lola the Westie's birthday was yesterday, and I considered waiting in the autograph line after the show to see if Jane could call Lola the Westie and sing "Whatever Lola Wants" to her. It would have meant a great deal to her.) She looks and sounds beautiful in the role, not to mention dances like a dream and is hilarious when the scene calls for it.



Speaking of my dog Lola, I would like to mention my dog, LuLu, now and why I started bawling during "Goodbye Old Girl" last night...

It made me think about LuLu (she died last year at the age of 16...I still really miss her. Lola can never measure up...and I tell her that all the time!)

So sleep your sleep, old girl
Our love will keep, old girl, till then
My old girl
Goodbye


(That has absolutely nothing to do with the show. I just like relating random things to even more random things and crying over them.)

A special mention goes to the always-wonderful Megan Lawrence, who was fantastic in The Pajama Game a few years ago. (And for me to notice ANYBODY else on stage when Harry Connick, Jr. was involved??? Certainly says something about Ms. Lawrence's performance in that one!) She stepped in on short notice after Ana Gastayer was injured. (I was disappointed...I wanted to see her...I mean, after my OWN Celine Dion impression, I think Ana's is the second best.) However, Megan danced in like the pro she is.

The ensemble was wonderful, and I feel that is always the best part about these revivals...I saw South Pacific a few months ago, and there was just something so remarkably special about a gang of 21st century musical theatre actors singing "Nothing Like a Dame"...a song that has been sung on stages all over the world since the 1950's. Damn Yankees' "Heart" has the same appeal. These songs are timeless...there is a reason why they're still sung in high school auditoriums and community playhouses all over the world every day...they absolutely never, ever lose their charm or their magic. (And they never will.)

Above all, this is a love story with a happy ending. We need more of those.

What an energetic, dazzling production...I hope it ends-up transferring to Broadway so many more can get the chance to see it and remember what musical theatre is all about.

(Plus...that Cheyenne Jackson is the BEST!)



Diana Rissetto

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