a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

I know I’m prone to over-statement, but hyperbole is where I live, and what I see. And Broadway in the 22 years, soon to be 23, on Dec.7, that I’ve been covering it for my TV show www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

Broadway has never had SUCH a season! And it really is having A WHOLE season, starting in the fall and stretching to next spring, if we’re lucky. In this economy, how is this happening??? Broadway is thriving! Tourists are packing the city. Who can afford these prices?? Something’s on the upswing, and it’s wonderful that it is!

It used to have this very real  Theater Season all year long, year in, year out. Not just the three months around the Tony Awards, in the spring.

And there were FIVE to SEVEN daily newspapers, at least. I remember fondly the World, Telegram and Sun. At one point they were THREE papers, then they consildated. And I particularly loved Dorothy Kilgallen, their Broadway columnist, who gained national television attention as a panelist of “What’s My Line.” Her column appeared every afternoon. Yes, the World, Telegram and Sun was an AFTERNOON newspaper! And she’d tell of all the marvelous plays and shows and parties she’d been to the night before. I thought it published in the afternoon because Dorothy obviously didn’t get up very early in the morning. If she went to bed at all! What a wonderful life she seemed to have!

And then, of course, like today, there was the New York Times and the Sunday New York Times. When I was a kid growing up in the Bronx, in Parkchester, I would sit pouring over and over the Broadway news “On the Rialto” that the New York Times used to have every Sunday in their Arts and Leisure section as I spread it all over the living room rug…I would read EVERY review and article, rabidly, and dream what it was like to be “On the Rialto”….and now I am!

I just can’t remember EVAH having to see so many plays at this time of year! When so many great shows were opening and opening and opening! It’s like the Theatre Gods have opened the floodgates, and we’re being inundated! With talent! And as a Drama Desk Voting Member, one has to try to see them all!

From September to,it looks like Christmas, there’s so many wonderful plays and musicals and all types of Broadway productions that I can’t quite believe this is really happening! And in THIS economy! How is so much production happening? And so many people going to see so many shows and at these prices!?!

It’s wonderful and it’s mind=boggling, but there it is. I never thought I would be seeing so many really, really good shows that I haven’t even had time to write about them!

Listing will have to do. LOVED “The Pittman Painters”at the Biltmore. Another British play by Lee Allen set in Northern England’s mining community,(like “Billy Elliot”, which co-incidentally Lee Allen ALSO wrote) it concerns a group of miners who with no cultural precedent whatsoever and not even a library in their tiny town, these men started taking an art education class that eventually turned them all into painters! And this is a true story! I could hardly believe it. It seemed wildly far-fetched — until they started showing the ACTUAL paintings(or very good facsimiles, anyway) that the miners painted and they were arresting and breathtakingly beautiful in the crude, unvarnished expressions of life as they saw it.  This show flies on its’ paintings, like musicals do on its’ songs…And I can’t recommend it highly enough.

At the other end of the excellence spectrum, there is the real triumph of the human spirit that is embodied in, of all things, Pee Wee’s Playhouse! Yes, the story, or BACK story of Paul Reubens’ fall from grace is sad, sordid, and grossly unfair, but now it’s 2010 and Pee Wee has triumphed in, of all places, Broadway. It looks like the first bona fide hit that the newly revamped Henry Miller Theater is going to enjoy. I LOVED Dame Edna’s pairing with Michael Feinstein last season, but that inexplicably fizzled.

Pee Wee’s Playhouse I think is going to run and run, simply on sheer joy and wackiness. It immediately reduces the entire audience to a child-like state and keeps them there. Pee Wee makes everyone stand up and pledge allegiance to the beginning of the show, and then we’re all pre-schoolers watching a very zany show with its’ tongue planted firmly in its’ cheek.

Pee Wee always ran on double entendre’s and there are plenty of them to keep the adults bemused and they’ll fly right over kiddies heads, like many of the puppets do, and Pee Wee himself does as the show’s great coup de theatre finale.

All the characters that I wondered “Whatever happened to them?” are back, sometimes with the original Pee Wee’s Playhouse Players playing them. Like Miss Yvonne, “the loveliest lady in Puppetland”. Whose looking a little worse of the wear but still pluckily hanging in there as she proclaims”Pee Wee! I’m your best friend!”

She has a rival in Pee Wee’s favorite chair “Chair-ee” who is back and now the other woman in Pee Wee’s crazy world, who he adores to sit on.

Jesse Garcia of “Quincenera” manages to impress as a new character of a Hispanic handy man who has come to install a new “computadora” for Pee Wee.  He manages to hold his own against all the animated furniture, flowers and fish.

The puppetry in this show is really first-rate. And when I first thought about this show I thought, “Well, a one-man show of just his shtick is gonna be a little boring after the first few minutes” but oh no, Ruebens’ Pee Wee is not alone! I think that I counted upwards of twenty actors and puppeteers at the final curtain call. Pee Wee is well supported this time around. And one’s heart does fly when one is shocked to discover that it remembers all the lines to Jambi The Genie(he’s a revolving talking blue head in a box. Pee Wee’s magic mirror as it were) magical invocation “Meka Leka Hi! Meka Heiny Ho!”

I wonder if “Elf” coming up soon can even regain HALF of Pee Wee’s simple(but complex) fun! “The magic word for today,” said Pee Wee, “is FUN! And you know what you have to do when you hear the word FUN!”

The audience obediently answers, “Yes!”

And Pee Wee says “SCREAM!”

And they all do! Me, too!

At the end of the show, everyone was screaming their heads off- with laughter! Heaven!

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