I love a comedy. I wrote a couple of years ago about how excited I was about the success of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and The Explorers Club. Then we had It's Only a Play and other stories about the return of comedy began to pop up. It's great to go to the theater and see a pure comedy or a pure musical comedy. So I want to alert you to two that are closing shortly -- Syliva, closing January 3, and the Tony Award-winning hit A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, closing January 17.
Listen, I know a lot of my readers are thinking: "Sylvia?!?" And I know people read The New York Times review and immediately crossed it off their possibilities list. Let me tell you why that is a mistake -- it's enjoyable, especially if you are a dog lover (not me) or know a dog lover well (and most of us do). Is it going to forever change your life? No. Is it going to make you laugh? Very likely so. Years ago, when I was a kid, I saw Sarah Jessica Parker play the title role. I don't remember that performance, so I can't compare, but I can tell you Annaleigh Ashford is great. Matthew Broderick is giving the best performance he has given in years. Robert Sella is entertaining in a variety of roles. The genius of Julie White is wasted because the role doesn't play to her strengths, but she seems to be enjoying herself, and made me laugh. There is a reason this show is a big regional success. It's not just because it has a small cast -- it is because it is accessible and funny. There are discounts and tickets available. If you still need something to take a group to in the next couple of weeks, give it a try.
Gentleman's Guide won the Tony award, so I hardly have to tell you about it. However even with the gold statuette, it may not seem like a natural "take tourist to" holiday musical. I think it is. I've sent dozens and dozens of people to the show, and only two did not like it. That ratio of success is pretty much unparalleled in my experience. (No one think "Hamilton" because I haven't tried to recommend that, and indeed I certainly don't need to. The rest of the world has it covered.) It's funny, it's charming, it may seem too pastiche to appeal to everyone, but yet almost everyone seems to like it. No stars. No familiar title. Just winning. If you haven't seen it yet, I urge you to go before it closes. In the community, we are all looking for something to succeed without a gimmick. This is the rare time it has actually happened. I greatly recommend becoming part of its success story.
Also, as long as I'm at it, a big shout out to Manhattan Theatre Club, for continuing to produce comedies. Until recently the non-profit had two comedies running concurrently off-Broadway. The comedy on Stage II was a lot less successful, but I found amusing things in both of them. MTC got a lot of (I think undeserved) flak for its season. It, on the other hand, didn't get any credit for making light-hearted choices. That is because people think they are the safe choices -- comedies by men. But they aren't safe choices; comedies are inherently risky. Will people laugh? Will the critics think they should be producing more "important" works? So MTC deserves some credit, especially with their older subscriber base, for continuing to try to amuse a broad audience. I think if we lived in a world where the NYC non-profits only tried to produce lofty fare, I'd miss everything else.
So try to give these shows a shot in their final weeks. But, even if you don't see them, do try to go see a show this holiday season, comedy or drama. Support the arts. Happy Holidays!