Sunday, July 28, 2013

I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road

Last night, I visited an old friend who I hadn't seen in decades. The friend was I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road, and the reunion was lovely.
Renée Elise Goldsberry

I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road takes place in the late 1970s during the rehearsal of Heather Jones' new show. Famous as a soap opera actress, she has decided that honest self-expression is more important than image, and has written a completely honest show. Her manager, friend, and ex-fling Joe does not support and cannot begin to understand this decision. And he is downright horrified by her take on male-female relationships.

I was an usher on the original production, and I have no idea how many times I saw the show. I know I saw it starring Gretchen Cryer (who also wrote the book and lyrics), Nancy Ford (who wrote the music), Betty Buckley, and Virginia Vestoff in the lead role as Heather. I saw the first preview, the opening night, and the final performance. And I loved it. It's hard to explain what it felt like in 1978 to see and hear a contemporary woman's point of view on stage. It was thrilling. And in a musical too! It felt kinda miraculous.

And now it's 35 years later (!), and while the show has its pedantic moments, it remains an honest examination of someone finally speaking from her heart. In fact, Getting My Act is barely dated--fortunately (because it's a wonderful show) and unfortunately (because in 2013, it can still be ridiculously challenging to be a strong--or not strong--woman).

Gretchen Cryer
The Encores! Off-Center production has a vibrant center in Renée Elise Goldsberry, whose acting is good and whose singing is glorious. Frederick Weller as Joe is too weird and creepy. Joe is supposed to represent male jerkdom, yes, but he should also balance the show with a sense of the genuine problems of being a man dealing with women. Weller misses this opportunity totally, and he also makes Heather's affection for him puzzling at best. Goldsberry's "Old Friend" is so beautiful that it would be effective if she were singing to a chair, but there is no reason in this production to believe that Heather would or could feel so much love for Joe. 

Director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall has made some strange choices--or has allowed some other people's strange choices to continue. In addition to Weller's problematic performance, Marshall lets backup singer Christina Sajous overact to an extent that pulls focus from Heather, who is, of course, the main character. Someone--Marshall, I would think--should have told her, "This show is not about you." (Jennifer Sanchez and Jason Rabinowitz do well by their roles as the other back-up singer and a musician with a crush on Heather, respectively.)

But the main point about this production of Getting My Act is that it happened. Many thanks to
Encores! Off-Center for producing it and for offering inexpensive tickets (many seats were $25, even in the orchestra). I just hope I don't have to wait another 35 years to see my old friend again!

(first-row-center; $33--of which about 25% was fees!)

1 comment:

lizwollman said...

Sandra and I were there, too! We should have coordinated!