Saturday, June 27, 2015

LIVE FROM NEW YORK: Mel's Birthday Week with Seth Meyers, The Roots, 'Into The Woods' & NKOTB

Is it just me or did it totally feel like I blinked once and suddenly June was over? I know I can't be the only one! Falling smack in the middle of the month, June 17th was my 28th birthday and I decided that this year, rather than celebrating only one day, I'd celebrate a whole week. Here's what happened...

JUNE 17th (My Birthday)
Having your birthday fall on Wednesday when you're an adult puts you in a pickle. I'm not the type to #turnup (as the kids say), so with a friend, I'd decided I'd like to spend my birthday by heading out of work early and walking uptown a few blocks to the famed 30 Roc to see a live taping of Late Night With Seth Meyers.

I've been to the Late Night camp twice before -- both when Jimmy Fallon was hosting. They have upped their game since then with a brand new, state of the art, "reception room" that shows photos of previous guests that they show while you wait to be seated for filming. And if you've never done any of these live talk show tapings, let me tell you this -- boy, do you wait. You wait and you wait and you wait some more.

This version of Late Night films in Studio 8G, exciting to comedy nerds like me because it's right next-door to Studio 8H, where they've always filmed Saturday Night Live. This is apropos, since Seth Meyers was the most recent former head writer for SNL (and yes, he has mentioned that fact about a bagillion times on Late Night. In fact, he mentioned it twice during the episode I saw live.).

Finally when we filed in to the studio (which, as they all are, seems much smaller that it appears on television), the 8G band came out on stage to run through a few warm-up songs. This incarnation was less its usual bandleader -- fellow SNL alum Fred Armisen -- and instead included Chad Smith, the drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers as a celebrity "stand in". Afterward, just before they began filming, Seth came out to say hi and thank everyone for coming.

The show featured Mindy Kaling who was promoting the film Inside Out. She voiced "Disgust" alongside Amy Poehler (as "Joy") and Bill Hader (as "Fear"). I saw the film also as a part of my birthday week and let me tell you this -- if you're opting out because you think its just a kids movie, think again. It's much heavier than it appears and I would vouch that it is much more for the adults, not because of content but because of how nostalgic and well thought-out the Pixar concept of how emotions work really is.

The show also featured Adam Scott and a performance by Tove Lo of "Talking Body". Twice in one year I have seen her now! Officially on Little Mix level.

JUNE 28th (Sunday)
I've posted before about just how much I love and adore the Broadway musical, Into the Woods. It was the show I grew up watching over and over and over. On the 28th, the Brooklyn Academy of Music hosted a live reunion of the Original Cast from this musical for a part panel, part live performance of the most epic proportions so of course, I had to be there.

Hosted by comedian, Mo Rocca, the reunion also featured Stephen Sondheim himself (the composer/lyricist) and James Lapine (the writer of the book/story), plus original cast members Chip Zien (Baker), Joanna Gleason (Baker's Wife), Kim Crosby (Cinderella), Robert Westenberg (Cinderella's Prince/The Wolf), Danielle Ferland (Little Red Riding Hood), Ben Wright (Jack), and the incomparable Ms. Bernadette Peters (The Witch).

The reunion event was an even mixture of Q&A, funny stories, and live performance of the vast majority of the musical's big numbers. Emotions abounded and I wasn't the only one -- everyone in the audience around me was all holding back (or not holding back) tears throughout. I can't really explain why this show evokes such a visceral response. It just does.

Highlights (in addition to the live performances) include: James Lapine stating that then newbie Kim Crosby was chosen as Cinderella over Patti LuPone, Crosby and Westenberg elaborating on their real life marriage for over twenty years (it's more like Act I than Act II, obvi), Ferland's saying her favorite line was also my favorite line ("You can talk to birds?!?"), and hearing Bernadette Peters still slay the Witch's Rap, dog howls and all.

JUNE 29th (Monday)
Rarely in my old age (ha!) do I go out on a Monday night but that Monday night was particularly special as it was spent at Madison Square Garden to see The Main Event tour, featuring Nelly, TLC, and yes, New Kids On The Block.

I'd seen Nelly perform live once before -- back when I was in high school and he was arguably in his hay-day as the biggest mainstream hip-popper around. His set during The Main Event tour read like a 'Greatest Hits' package; I forgot how many fun dance songs he had.

My excitement for TLC easily eclipsed the excitement I had for anyone else that night so I was upset that I ended up a little let down by them. T-Boz rarely spoke and I had a sinking suspicion they were lipsynching through the majority of their set. Rather than feature the late Left Eye on the screens overhead, her voice was simply heard booming through the speakers while T-Boz and Chili danced along. The highlight was unmistakably during the closing song, "Waterfalls". Left Eye's rap was written out in text on the screens to encourage everyone to sing along and the crowd held up their phone flashlights (the 2015 version of a lighter) in her honor, filling the Garden with a blue glow with lots of twinkling white pinpricks of light like stars.

Not unlike my experience during Demi Lovato's live tour package, this sure was efficient. There was no time to waste before the five members of the New Kids on the Block ran out on stage to the tune of the jam "Block Party", a bonus cut from their latest album, 10. (For you boy band nerds, it was co-written by Drew Ryan Scott.)

I initially feared I wouldn't know enough of NKOTB's material to be hyped the whole night but boy,was I wrong. They relied heavily on the favorites and of the new material they performed, it was catchy enough to join in by the second chorus. 

Highlights: "Step By Step" on a moving, cascading staircase; "Tonight", complete with Joey's son singing along; everything getting really 'Magic Mike'-esque for no apparent reason with back to back solo (and shirtless) stages by Jordan Knight and Joey McIntyre (this excited the moms next to me to no end); the set closing "Hangin' Tough" / "We Will Rock You" mashup; "surprise" appearances by Biz Markee (why?) and 50 Cent (huh?) and a real surprise appearance by Mark Wahlberg (they played "Good Vibrations" as he glowered on stage. He said nothing and the audience boo-ed as Donnie continued to troll him, thanking him as "Marky Mark Wahlberg".). 

All in all, it was a pretty good birthday week! Here's to 28!

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