Thursday, May 9, 2024

NYC Theater Trip 2024: "The Outsiders" at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

Show*: 2

Title: The Outsiders

Location: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

Written By: Adam Rapp and Justin Levine (book), Jamestown Revival and Justine Levine (music and lyrics)

Summary: An adaptation of the 1967 novel by S. E. Hinton and the 1983 movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola, about three orphaned brothers and their "greaser" friends and rival gang of "socs" (the rich kids).

Highlights: I love the movie, so I was skeptical of a musical adaptation. I'm happy to be proven wrong - The Outsiders is all-around brilliant (the Tony voters agree with me - 12 noms)! Every element of theatrical storytelling is incredible and comes together to tell this story without taking away from the heart of it. It's a story of friendship, love, family, and loyalty, that despite being written by a teenage girl in the '60s has a lot to say about masculinity, aggression, violence, mob mentality, us vs. them, and bullying, in a way that's very relevant to today. Here's a quick list of the highlights:
  • The play is beautifully constructed using narration from the main character Ponyboy, a smart 14-year-old caught in a world of violence. He begins and ends the show writing and telling his story, with gorgeous poignant text, presumably taken from the novel. 
  • The score, written by an Americana band called Jamestown Revival (aka Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance), has a great folky/southern rock/Americana sound (which I will be downloading immediately when the cast recording comes out), with some authentic instrumentation from the offstage (or under the stage?) 9-piece band.
  • The visceral sound design and stunning lighting design at times make you feel like you're inside Ponyboy's head - when he's knocked out by a bully, or almost drowned. The lighting goes from pitch black to bright lights illuminating a startling tableau, with some great flashlight effects.
  • The powerful and athletic choreography (by the Kuperman brothers) is urgent and physical and thrilling, with hands down the best fight scene I've ever seen on a stage anywhere. It goes from chaos, to identical partnered fighting (featuring the entire ensemble) rolling across the stage, to the ensemble all acting out the receiving end of a punch. It's also raining, and the water combined with the lighting creates some stunning images. It's impossible to describe but absolutely mesmerizing to watch; if it were on tape I'd rewind to watch it again and again.
  • The grungy set is constructed of planks and tires, with an old car on one side of the stage that's also used as a bed and other furniture pieces, and also a jumping off point for the dancing. This show literally includes all of the elements - earth (the stage is covered with dirt that the dancers kick and toss around), air (well, smoke), fire (yes, real fire! for that pivotal scene), and water (a pool in a big tire, and rain during the climactic fight scene).
  • This young, talented, energetic, and athletic cast includes many actors making their Broadway debut. All of the leads are fabulous, with three nominated for Tonys this year - Brody Grant as a broken-hearted, sympathetic, relatable Ponyboy; Sky Lakota-Lynch as the sweet and tender-hearted Johnny; and Joshua Boone as their tough older mentor Dallas, with demons of his own. I also loved the other Curtis boys - Brent Comer as eldest brother and reluctant parent figure Darrel, and Jason Schmidt as the smiling peacemaker Sodapop. The scene with the three brothers near the end of the show is a tear-jerker.
  • The costumes are quintessential '60s - t-shirts, jeans, jackets for the greasers, crisp polo shirts, neat trousers, chic dresses for the socs.
I absolutely loved this production, and all of the really intricate design elements that don't overwhelm the storytelling but add to it (Scenic Design by AMP and Tatiana Kahvegian; Costume Design by Sarafina Bush; Lighting Design by Brian MacDevitt; Sound Design by Cody Spencer; Projection Design by Hana S. Kim), with direction by Danya Taymor (niece of Julie, the brilliant mind behind The Lion King). But the score and the story can absolutely stand on their own, and I look forward to seeing a stripped down local version when it becomes available for regional production (in a decade or so).

*Once again, I'm using an abbreviated Fringe-style summary for my NYC 2024 trip, since I am in the greatest city in the world with much more exciting things to do than write! Click here to see all of my Broadway-related blog posts.