In the midst of this sticky Knoxville heat wave, I thought it might be refreshing to remember back to April when about 40 Knoxvillians trekked to New York City as part of the Clarence Brown Theatre’s annual pilgrimage to see the Big Apple’s latest theatrical offerings. Although April usually brings thoughts of spring, we all packed our winter coats as we headed north — and were glad that we did!
Clarence Brown’s artistic director, Cal MacLean — as he always does — selected plays with an eye to which might take home some Tony Awards and which might stimulate some lively discussion. He did a heck of a job with this, as you will see.
My friends and I tried to do our usual good job of picking equally exciting restaurants to fill the time between scheduled activities. We also succeeded. More on that in a follow-up post.
Other highlights of the trip were a visit by the entire Knoxville entourage to Tavern on the Green and to Playwright Celtic Pub for a reunion of Clarence Brown alums living in New York. And Alan and I shoehorned in a visit to the Brooklyn Museum to see the David Bowie exhibit on display until mid-July.
Read on for reviews of all!
As we would find out a few weeks later, this musical would take home 10 Tony Awards — including Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical and Best Direction of a Musical. It was an uplifting (and funny) story of an Egyptian police band that accidentally ends up in the wrong city in Israel and is taken in for the night by the townspeople. Highly, highly recommend.
“Three Tall Women” took home two Tony Awards. Glenda Jackson won Best Performance by an Actress in a Play and Laurie Metcalf won Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play. So lucky to have seen both of these great actresses.
The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical took home two Tony Awards this year: Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical and Best Choreography. But the message in the story of this play is just awful. One example of offensive dialogue: “Mama, he hit me. But it didn’t hurt at all. It felt like a kiss.” Richard Rodgers himself called the play “a tragedy — but it’s a hopeful one.” I didn’t see it that way.
The two redeeming parts of it: opera great Renée Fleming singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and the fantastic dancing.
I found the fourth play, “Admissions,” to be fascinating. It’s about a very liberal white couple — she works in a boarding school admissions office and he’s the head of the school. They are all about championing diversity in the school — until their own son gets turned down by Yale and his best friend, who is black, gets accepted despite having lower entrance scores. Then all hell breaks loose. Very thought-provoking and, at times, funny.
This trip every year features a stop at Central Park’s Tavern on the Green. The organizers pick this eatery because, not only is it iconic, but it also has large private rooms to accommodate our group.
Another tradition on this trip is getting together for drinks and nibbles with some of Clarence Brown’s alums living and working in New York. This usually takes place at an eatery in the Theater District called Playwright Celtic Pub.
On our final day in New York, we headed to Brooklyn.
Unfortunately, photos were not allowed inside the exhibit, but it was great. It featured video and still photos from all phases of Bowie’s career. Some parts were very immersive.
The next post will be about the incredible non-museum restaurants some of us discovered on this trip when we broke away from the pack.