by: Ansley Moore
The technical difference between Broadway and Off-Broadway theatre is the amount of seats in the house. A Broadway theater must have a house of at least 500 seats, while an Off-Broadway theater has between 100-499 seats. Both types of theaters must be located in Manhattan, the geographic stipulation to be considered any sort of “Broadway”.
This distinction shocked me because I was under the impression that the difference would lie in professionalism. It’s a misconception I’ve held all my life, even joking on more than one occasion that some silly skit my friends and I made was opening Off-Broadway next week. But looking back it was incredibly unfair for me to make that judgement because until this past interim I had never seen any Off-Broadway production before. And after attending my first Off-Broadway show- Avenue Q- and the only real difference between that show and every other Broadway show I’ve seen was the house size (as aforementioned) and the budget. The financial gap was made more apparent to me because just days earlier FRA had taken the whole group to see Aladdin, which was truly a spectacle of “Disney Magic”. There was a cast of thirty six people and each one was in spectacularly intricate and detailed costumes, wigs, and makeup that were constantly changing into something more extravagant. They were working with an incredibly versatile set that moved on its own and further conveyed the grandeur of the story. Every cast member has probably spent more time in dance classes than I have spent on Earth because every dance move, stunt, flip, and whatever else was executed to perfection. And the moment when the magic carpet really flew across the stage the whole audience gasped as one. It was truly breathtaking to witness (if only casting could have made the experience my ears had listening to Aladdin sing equally as pleasurable…).
Meanwhile, Avenue Q only had one big set piece that could be manipulated in small ways to convey a new location. Rather than give the eleven person cast extravagant costumes (they were all dressed in black jeans and t-shirts) they were all given an extravagant amount of puppets to work with. There are thirty four puppets in the whole show with some cast members operating as few as five ranging to one of the ensemble tracks (known as the “second handler”) having to operate every single one of them at some point during the show. And the casting department for Avenue Q definitely pulled their weight in choosing performers for such a small show because every actor was perfectly cast and I spent all of intermission gushing about how incredible all of their voices were. The show wasn’t choreographed so much as it was stylized. There were no giant “Friend Like Me” dance breaks, but there was never a disconnect between an actor and their puppet. Even though the expression of the puppets obviously couldn’t change, it felt like you could watch the puppet’s mood shift over the course of a scene just because of how specific the actors were able to make the body language of their puppets match how they (the actor) were moving through that scene.
And even beyond things that we could see on stage, the difference between the scale of the two productions was revealed through things like one of the ensemble members of Avenue Q also being the Assistant Stage Manager to help out their one Production Stage Manager and Stage Manager, while Aladdin needed a PSM, an SM, and three ASMs in order to get through their show. Ticket price also helps to reveal scale because our Aladdin tickets were around $80 each (and those were group tickets so they were cheaper than they would have been if we bought each ticket individually) and we were on the third floor balcony of a theatre that seats 1,702 people- so we were nowhere close to the stage. But for only ten more dollars at Avenue Q we were able to buy individual tickets for front row center, which is considered by most to be the “best seats in the house”. On the other hand, the smaller scale of Avenue Q made it possible for them to host an event like Puppet Prom after the show in honor of National Puppetry Day. Audience members brought their own personal puppets to mingle with puppets from the show, and those of us without our own puppets were given a pair of puppet eyes to join the party with (and based on the picture, you can clearly tell that some of us were more excited about this than others). So if you’re in New York, don’t discount Off-Broadway theatre as a way to take in a show!
by: Jaden Holtschlag
In Miss Saigon, audiences watch as a young Vietnamese woman falls in love with an American Soldier during the Vietnam War. Traveling through many different challenges to find her lover again, she fights to find him so he can take their son to America to give him the opportunity of a better life. Miss Saigon is definitely a heavy show to watch. Everything was so detailed and beautiful and vibrant. However, I did feel that some parts of the story were choppy and unnecessary. Eva Noblezada, playing the female lead, deserved her Tony Nomination in many different ways. From the audience, you can feel her connection with the child actor playing her son as she sings how she will give up everything to save him. Her voice is flawless. The man who plays her lover, Alistair Brammar, has a very strong voice, but you could definitely tell there was some tension between him and Noblezada. One of my biggest issues with this production was the overriding orchestra. In some of the scenes, the orchestra overpowered whole ensembles, who, in my opinion, were already very loud. I was thoroughly impressed by the Engineer, a character who lead Noblezada through Saigon and provides comic relief because he was the understudy. His comic timing was very natural and you could tell he was a comedian and really felt comfortable playing the role.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Waitress- In Waitress, audiences see the truly real struggle of a woman dealing with an unexpected pregnancy and how she falls in love with her doctor. As she walks through this journey, her two closest friends are always there to walk her through, and even fall in love on their own. This show is practically three different stories about three very different women from different situations. Betsy Wolfe delivered a phenomenal performance as the main waitress, Jenna. During one of the more emotional songs, she genuinely started crying. Her two friends provided tons of comic relief being a sassy diva who always gets her way or being an innocent woman who is scared to fall in love. They both fit in beautifully and you can really see the chemistry between them and Jenna. The doctor provided just the right amount of awkward, and was just a very funny character whose nervousness when flirting with the person he liked was very relatable. My only complaint was that the ensemble deserved a bigger part in the show. However, when they were onstage, they always left a memorable impression. The ensemble played many characters and changed very quickly throughout many numbers. Every single change, from the set to props to costumes, seemed very smooth and flowy.
Overall Rating: 9/10
Aladdin- In Aladdin, audiences are entranced by the beauty and elegance shown through all the dancing and singing. The Genie was phenomenal. From seeing the original cast of the production I knew a lot of the jokes from the show, but this Genie added many of his own jokes to the production, which is not the easiest thing to do, especially when trying to make it flow with the rest of the show. As for the three brothers of Aladdin, who are not included in the movie, they truly act exactly like brothers, and you can see how they are really having fun and enjoying sharing the stage with each other. The Jasmine was perfect in every way a princess can be. You could tell she has been performing this role for a while because she has added her own taste to it, and has gotten really deep with the character, making her more than just a selfish princess who refuses to be married, but as a real person with real problems. The costumes were absolutely beautiful and gorgeous, and everything seemed to flow perfectly. There were many quick costume changes, onstage and off, that made everyone in the audience say “Whoa”. There were several times in the ensemble in which certain singing parts overpowered others, and harmonies were lost. There also were some instances where dancers were off tempo or weren’t together, but this only happened a few times. With Aladdin being such a heavy dance show though, these can often be overlooked. The only character I had a problem with was Aladdin. In his acting, there was no depth. It seemed very shallow, and there was no shift in his character from the beginning of the story to the end. I felt as if I was on a roller coaster and instead of going up at the end and back down for the fun ride, we just remained stationary. His singing voice sounded very forced and did not even sound great some times. After a while of listening to it, his voice became obnoxious and I began to get bored. I was extremely disappointed by the Aladdin because I felt that he brought the rest of the show down.
Overall Rating: 7/10