by Mary Jo
New York, New York, it's a wonderful town! The Romance Writers of America annual conference is held in New York every four years because it's traditionally the headquarters of American publishing. I go mostly to see friends and touch base with my publisher and agent and other professionals. The four Wenches present--me, Jo Beverley, Jo Bourne, and Cara Elliott (we like to call her Cara Jo <G>) had a nice Wenchly breakfast because we so seldom meet face to face.
On the other hand, Pat Rice sagely said, "RWA is where introverts go to die," and it's true! Almost all of us writer types are introverts, yet there we are, extroverting like crazy for days on end, and we go home feeling like road kill. Happy road kill in most cases, but still.
The RWA New York conference is always held at the Marriott Marquis hotel on Times Square. It's an enormous hotel built for big conferences (though in that case, why aren't there more elevators?!!!), though acoustics in the vast, 40 or so story high atrium are terrible. Two thousand women extroverting are NOT quiet! All day and well into the night you could hear the constant menacing roar of writers' voices when you stepped out of your room into the atrium. Outside, Times Square churns with masses of humanity, not to mention flashing neon billboards that rival Las Vegas.
But Times Square has a huge plus: It's the heart of the Broadway theater district. Step outside the hotel, and there are theaters everywhere and they're playing all the famous shows you've heard of: The Lion King is about 100 feet away across a narrow street--it's been playing in the same theater every time I've stayed at the Marriott Marquis. Les Miserables is around the corner, and so is The Book of Mormon. And Kinky Boots and Jersey Boys and the revival ofThe King and I, and on it goes--and that isn't even mentioning Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway.
Once I realized that going to a conference in NYC meant that I could go to a Broadway show, I had huge incentives to attend. <G> I like big, splashy productions that are lots of fun and have happy endings. If I want to be sobered up, I have the daily newspapers for that.
I was wondering what to see when I came across a TIME magazine article about what was on Broadway. That's where I first heard of Something Rotten!, a new musical that reminds me a bit of the movie Shakespeare in Love, which I adored, only done as a crazed mash-up musical.
Like Shakespeare in Love, Something Rotten! is set in the Elizabethan theater world, and it's popcorn for English majors and history lovers. Lots of clever wording and puns and fragments of quotes. The plot centers on Nicholas Bottom and his sweet young poet brother, Nigel Bottom. (Many character names are ones that are in Shakespearean plays.) The antagonist is Will Shakespeare himself, of whom Nick is wildly jealous.
It's always fun to have company at a show, so I persuaded Jo Beverley and Vicki Lewis Thompson by sending them one of the dance clips. Jo nailed the show immediately, saying it looked silly and fun and high energy. Right on all counts. <G> Here's a highlight clip.
The whole cast was first rate and they had limitless stamina--there was a huge amount of dancing. But my favorite character was Shakespeare, played by Christian Borle who had just won a Tony award for the part. The Bard is played as a preening, wildly successful rock star, and it's hilarious. When he reads poetry in the park, it's rock video all the way. <G> (His fans keep shouting, "Will power!")
My favorite number was when Shakespeare has to withdraw to his desk and write his next hit, and he's having a terrible time of it. The song is called "It's Hard to be the Bard!", and here's a street clothes version of it. Naturally, we writers ate it up. <G>
I get the sense that Something Rotten! is a big enough hit that there may well be a touring company around the country. Is so, you might enjoy seeing it. But even if the show isn't to your taste, attending a Broadway production when you're in New York is a powerful lesson on the special qualities of live theater. And also that it's really hard to be a bard. <G> Below, see the Joseph Fiennes playing the Bard with writer's block in Shakespeare in Love.
I still have a couple of advance reading copies of my September release, Not Always a Saint, so in the spirit of Broadway frivolity, I'll give one to someone who leaves a comment between now and midnight Tuesday. Will Power!!!