Anyway, um...this was quite possibly the best theater experience of my life. I've never been so entertained, so impressed, so thrilled, so inspired, or so touched by a piece of musical theater like this before. The talent was phenomenal across the board. There is not a weak performance in the bunch. I was not unimpressed or dissappointed in anyone on that stage at any time and that is a huge deal. That being said, watcing Audra was like nothing else. You think you know what a perfect performance is, and then you see her. I have never, ever been so blown away by a single performance. My expectations were sky high and she managed to shatter them. I don't know how better to sum this up than with the Simple Little Things I saw:
- Front Row - This theater is so freakin' tiny. I've seen a couple other shows here, both times towards the back. There isn't a bad seat in the house, but I did have a great seat. Will hit me with his rain staff accidentally when he turned around. Audra's dress brushed against my legs several times and she rested her hand on the back of my chair. Heaven.
- Lizzie's entrance - The energy was like nothing I've ever felt before. I've seen big names in Broadway productions before and in my experience, when a big name makes their entrance, the audience cheers and the actor stands there, frozen, basking in the applause the audience is feeding them. Audra had none of it. There was an eruption of applause alright, but she didn't spend one moment not being Lizzie Curry. She hugged her father and her brothers and started doing the dishes. She didn't stand there and indulge herself.
- The first note she sang - My heart fluttered in unison with everyone in the audience. She has such a unique, stunning, mixed voice that rattled the walls of the theater and pierced the hearts of the audience.
- File - He was just so great from top to bottom. I've seen this guy in another show and I was very impressed with him yet again. He has a fantastic voice and he is such a smart actor. This may be a bizarre observation coming from another guy, but he has such expressive eyes. You could always tell what he was thinking by looking into his eyes.
- Starbuck's entrance - The collective swoon of the ladies behind me was just as natural as his performance. Will surprised me. He was charming and unassuming. He didn't make the role anything more than what it really was.
- The Picnic - You cannot fake a performance as emaculately detailed as Audra's. There was passion and humanity even in the way she set up the plates. The expression on her face when she realized that File wasn't coming was unforgettable.
- Raunchy! - I think I finally understand the phrase "bring the house down." She so brought it. I've never seen someone so animated, so alive, so ridiculous, but at the same time, completely grounded and real. She had everyone in the palm of her hand and had them rolling in the aisles. It was also fantastic to see H.C. actually playing a harmonica and guitar.
- When Noah told "the truth" - I loved the way he delivered it. It was such a harsh thing to say, but he honestly believed that it was the right thing to say and did it because he loves her. It could be very easy to hate this character, but I felt for him. It made it all the more heartbreaking to see Lizzie reluctantly agree with him.
- Old Maid - Just...oh my gosh. Bore her soul.
- "I'm Pretty" - And she is...so pretty. I had a huge lump in my throat when she asked "is this really me?" with tears streaming down her face.
- The choreography - I was holding my breath a couple times. I was terrified that someone was going to fall off of that tiny stage but they were all pro. Hats off.
- The end - It's just perfect. Go see it. "Oh Starbuck, you said the wrong thing."
If there's one word to describe this show, it's honest. Everything about it was real. Hale could've really dropped the ball with this. They could've made this show a flashy spectacle and alienated their cast from Audra and Will, but they really pulled it off. The entire cast is to be heavily commended. Yes she's Audra McDonald and her performance stood out; she doesn't have four Tony Awards for nothing. But it was an honest performance and it was a humble performance. It was never about her. She was contributing to the rest of her cast, giving them their moments and being as true to herself as possible. The look on her face during the curtain call told it all. She nodded to each side of the audience, just bowing her head in thanks. No arms flailing, no fake smile, no blowing kisses, just genuine appreciation.
I honestly feel as though I've gotten to know her through her two hours of vulnerability on stage. When you give an honest, connected performance, you let people see the highs and lows of your life. That's what I saw tonight and that's why I love theater. I believe that everyone has something deeply divine in them that is worth sharing with the world. I love seeing people for who they really are and the theater is the best place for it. This really reminded me of that beautiful truth. Thanks to the cast and crew of this incredible production. This was a once in a lifetime experience and I'm a better person because of it.