On last week’s “30 Rock” finale, Jenna Maroney taunted Hazel the page, who can’t find a place to live in New York: “Aww, poor baby, can’t hack it in the big city? Gonna move to the Bay Area now and pretend that that was your dream the whole time? Have fun always carrying a light sweater.”
It’s funny because it’s true — there are maybe three days a year in the Bay Area where you don’t have to carry a light sweater! And while I do believe I live in the most beautiful place in the U.S., there’s no denying that New York is special. Usually, I’m not a fan of crowds, noise, or traffic, all things New York has in spades, but what I do love so dearly is the sense of endless possibility here — the feeling that there’s so much to see and do here that you could never exhaust it. I always hate to leave New York, because there are always a hundred things I wish I’d had time to do.
It’s always hard to decide which plays to see, even after eliminating the obvious dreck like the “Spiderman” or “Ghost” musicals. We were lucky enough to get tickets to the new revival of “Porgy & Bess,” starring the legendary, multi-Tony-winning Audra McDonald. The remount became controversial when Stephen Sondheim slammed it (before it opened) in the New York Times, decrying the changes that had allegedly been made; as it happens, I’d never seen “Porgy” before, so I wasn’t distracted by any deletions or substitutions. (Apparently it is a pretty faithful version; a new ending was tried and discarded.) I feel like I’m kind of stating the obvious by saying that “Porgy & Bess” is a stunning play — it’s sort of like someone seeing “King Lear” for the first time and raving how that Shakespeare fellow was quite a writer — but really, I was blown away by the beautiful music, the dramatic situations (if you don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s pretty suspenseful!) and the brilliant performances. David Alan Grier, perhaps best known as a comedian (we’ve seen him do stand-up at Cobb’s), does a charismatic turn as Sporting Life; Norm Lewis is an enormously likable Porgy, a man you can’t help but root for; and McDonald gives one of those searing performances that people will remember for years. I’ve been lucky enough to see quite a few Broadway shows over the past couple decades, and this one ranks right up there with the best.