Confessions of a Teenage Theater Geek - Off-Broadway rocks!

“Off-Broadway?!” you scoff. “That’s only for amateurs. If you want real theatre you must see a show ON Broadway, not OFF! You plebeian!”

Photo courtesy of quickmeme.com

Photo courtesy of quickmeme.com

If you have ever uttered those words you’re a pretentious jerk and in need of a serious attitude adjustment.

Off-Broadway is awesome. It's like Broadway's hipster cousin who decided giant, flashy theaters and sets are too mainstream and chose to take his flannel-printed awesomeness elsewhere. "Off-Broadway"  contains a huge array of shows that vary from ensemble productions with big sets and bold music, to simple one-man shows with insanely talented comedians and dramatic monologues.

One thing I love about Off-Broadway shows is that the actors are so clearly in love with what they do. I have never seen such passion and drive as these actors have even while playing for much smaller-scale theaters than their Broadway counterparts. I actually think the small theaters add to the intimacy of the performance, really making the audience feel like they can dive into the story onstage.

This past weekend I saw Avenue Q for the second time Off-Broadway (not including the equally phenomenal production of this show put on by BC this past Spring) and honestly I find new things to crack me up every time. The show completely reminded me how cool Off-Broadway shows can be, so I figured what better to talk about in this blog than some of my favorite Off-Broadway shows!

Avenue Q

gavel2If you saw Boston College’s take on this hilarious show last Spring, you’d know that this is the perfect show for college kids and young adults fresh out of college. Satirizing Sesame Street while complaining about transitioning into adulthood is just plain funny in itself, but when you can actually relate it pushes the show into a whole separate dimension of awesome. I imagine this dimension of awesome is also lined with bouncy castle walls and everything tastes like Nutella.

Other than reaffirming it's hilarity, I won’t go into great detail about the show now since I already wrote about it here:

Why you need to see Avenue Q

See what I did there? I’m getting you to read an article I wrote inside of another article I wrote. An article within an article. It’s like Gavel-inception.

Rent

Rent is in my top three favorite musicals of all time. It’s one of the only musicals where I can say that I loved the show and the movie equally for entirely different reasons. Both are unique but still manage to convey this beautiful story about a group of friends living through onset AIDS in New York City in the late 90s.

Rent manages to capture the highs and the lows desperately trying to afford life in the city, struggling with sexuality, and dealing with a life-altering disease in such a captivating and electrifying way. The soundtrack is nothing short of a masterpiece. There is not a single song in this entire musical that drags or sinks below the rest, which is a nearly impossible feat to accomplish as a composer.

I was fortunate enough to see this show in its final year on Broadway, but due to popular demand – and probable fits of tears and rage from distraught fans – it was soon revived Off-Broadway because it’s just too incredible not to perform.

Also, if the goddess that is Idina Menzel singing this song doesn’t sell you on this show, I don’t know what will. I’ve heard that her belting makes angels cry.

UPDATE: Halfway through writing this blog I discovered that the Off-Broadway production of Rent closed this past year. Whoops. Oh well, I’m leaving this part in because I’m obsessed with this musical and I refuse to cope with its closing. The end.

Peter and the Starcatcher 

I love Peter Pan. You love Peter Pan. If you don’t love Peter Pan I’m assuming you lived a cold, miserable childhood and should just sell your imagination on eBay because you’ve clearly never used it or understood what joy is for that matter.

Photo courtesy of New York Theatre Workshop/flickr

Photo courtesy of New York Theatre Workshop/flickr

Peter and the Starcatcher is a wildly inventive show based on a book by the same name but with an extra “s” at the end (I’m not really sure why they only decided on a single “starcatcher” in the play’s title). The story follows a young Peter Pan far before he even took on that name and became an eternal child in Neverland.

I personally think prequels – when done correctly – are so cool. Getting an inside look on how one of your favorite characters came to be makes the original story so much more exciting and gives you a completely new perspective on a classic.

What I found most exciting about this play was the set – or lack thereof. Instead of using large, bulky set pieces, the actors use their bodies and some pieces of rope to create walls, doors, and at one point a boxing ring. It’s whimsical, it’s impressive, and it’s downright spectacular to watch.

Photo courtesy of New York Theatre Workshop/flickr

Photo courtesy of New York Theatre Workshop/flickr

By far the best character in this show is Black Stache, who by the end of the show adopts a name you may be more familiar with: Captain Hook. The scene where his hand gets cut off was brilliantly acted by Christian Borle when I saw the show. A good three minutes goes by of no dialogue and pure, agony-driven facial contortions that had me holding my stomach in pain from laughing so hard. He went on to win the Tony because he’s incredible at everything he does.

Avenue Q and Peter and the Starcatcher are both playing at the New World Stages Off-Broadway. 

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Samantha Costanza