Thursday, February 23, 2006

Snow days

Over a long winter weekend in NYC, punctuated by 26 inches of snow, we managed to squeeze in three shows plus "Aida" at the Metropolitan Opera.

Andrew Lloyd's Webber's "The Woman in White," which was closing nine days later, provided the most fireworks in its computer-generated stage set. Backgrounds were projected, and then swirled and twisted like a steadi-cam dream. American reviews generally weren't kind to this London hit, but -- perhaps because I entered with low expectations -- I found myself liking it more than I had expected. "All for Laura" was a highlight song, even as some familiar Webber melodies seemed, well, familiar.

The jovial (and evil) Count Fosco set a confusing tone. A woman is killed in this musical. It's jarring to be expected to laugh at his foppish wooing in this context. Still, it will be interesting to see what further life "Woman in White" has, and whether other shows might try this new type of stagecraft.

The revival of "Sweeney Todd" at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre was worth the price of admission just to see Patti LuPone lug that big tuba around the stage. You have to be in the right mood for the bloody work of "The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," but if you are, it pays off.

Billed as a mix of "Forever Plaid" and "Nunsense," the cult hit "Altar Boyz" at Dodger Stages satirizes the easy targets of boy bands, specifically a Christian rock band on the last night of its U.S. tour. The Boyz (Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham -- "he's Jewish") break some moves, flex, male bond, sing a variety of songs from rap to ballads to Latino crossover and save the souls of everyone in the theater.

Although not the ostensible lead, Tyler Maynard as Mark combines Pee Wee Herman moves with the voice of a (closeted) angel. The web site, including fake bios of the Boyz, extends the charade.

These faux five are not for the easily offended. But in NYC, they had fans screaming as if this were a real concert.

- Michael K.

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