Opening Night at NYMF

Yesterday I was lucky enough to see the opening night of this year's New York Musical Theatre Festival (aka NYMF), and I learned a valuable lesson about traveling in New York-- ALWAYS give yourself more time than you think you will need.  Especially if you are staying out in Brooklyn.  Those "arrival times" on the subway apps are just estimates, people. and they are no guaranty that you will get there at the time they say.

I was meeting my friend at 480 Broadway at 6:30.  Leaving at 5:35 should be enough time to get there, right?  Fuck that!!!  I needn't have spent the time showering and making myself presentable, because after racing 3 blocks to the subway, getting on the 3 and then switching to the express (only to realize that the express landed me a little farther away from Times Square than the local) taking shuttle to Times Square and then walk-running from 42nd to 10th street, I was drenched and red faced (at least that's how I felt).  And I could not find 480 for the life of me.  I found 470... and 500... back to 470...and 500.  I called my friend at 6:56 for a 7pm show.  Would that I was calm cool and collected when making this call.  Alas, I was not.

"I'm going home.  I don't...I don't even know where I am.  I'm at the CVS at 10th and Broadway"

"Joe, the theatre is at 10th and Broadway.  You can make it."

This was my first encounter with inner demons.  Of course, these were relatively small demons, and not giant hairy demons with spiked backs coming at me with great swords.  They were small demons like the little caped chap on the deviled ham cans, with tiny little shrimp forks to jab insistently until I felt I just might lose my shit in frustration at subways and geography and my perceived ineptitude.   I did not lose my shit.  I took a breath, or two.

This is when I realized that though the sign on the outside of the building might say 470, it is ALSO 480, but 480 is upstairs.

I hurried up the stairs, made my way through the velvet rope, passing directly by Johnny Tartaglia, the director, who was far too immersed in pre-show prep to notice the harried homo heading into the theatre.  I met my friend, and a couple of new people who could not have been sweeter, and the A/C started to calm my nerves and soothe my soul.

I hadn't even had a chance to investigate what the show was about.  I'd just seen the blurb of text that mentioned a "super" guy.  Super Hero musical?  Ok.  Could be fun.

What it actually is, as was beautifully captured in the opening number, is a musical about the inner lives of video game characters, specifically those in "Claudio Quest" (an homage to Mario World).   It's the story of two brothers, one a shining star always saving the day, and the other his dutiful and dear, one man pit crew.  It's whimsical, bright, beautifully designed, and very tight.  And while it's clever, it is more than that.  The writers did some major research and tapped into all the things that annoy and inspire us about them, and use the world of Claudio and Luis and Princess Poinsettia to explore questions of free will, the possibilities of defying expectations, and the yearning for something more.  The script is well structured, and supported by some wonderful performances.  There were a few times I thought about the trust that the writers place on the actors, because many lines in less capable hands could land rather flatly, but they are executed with full out commitment and just a smidgeon of irony which helps them really breathe.  Special props to Michael Schupbach and The Puppet Kitchen for the rendering of the angry mushrooms, eggplants and assorted creatures that populate Claudio's Kingdom.

I got to meet John Tartaglia after the show, and he could not have been more charming or considerate.  It was fun to be able to see everyone after, to get to tell them what a wonderful job they'd done,  and what joy they had brought.

If you are in the New York area you have seven more chances to catch this production in its current form, and I couldn't recommend it more.