Write All Nite never goes full Ringer.
And we won’t start today, because as much as that website has cornered the market on comparing art to sports, those populists would never dare cover live theater.
As such, how could they liken the 11 o’clock number to the “clear out” play in basketball??
In the final minutes of a close game, as the clock ticks down to zero, a team with a superstar on its roster will lean into their preternatural offensive gifts. Simply put, you give your best player the ball, and you tell every other teammate to wait on the periphery of the play. AKA: get the fuck out of the way, and let the chef cook. One on one, he can’t be stopped.
11 o’clock numbers function on a similar logic: clear everyone else out, and let the maestro go to work. Ideally, the audience’s defenses don’t stand a chance.
But Mr. Saturday Night, now on Broadway, asks: “Why wait until almost midnight to unsheathe this artistic weapon?!”
In repeated bouts of shameless people-pleasing, the show periodically clears out for (National Basketball Association aficionado!) Billy Crystal to let him do his thing. Empty the stage, give that man a mic, an audience, a few quippy one-liners, and sit back while he puts up a hall-of-fame stat line.
But Billy’s not the sole player Mr. Saturday Night clears out for.
Once in the first act, and once in the second, the production makes space for the dynamic duo (with a shared history!) of Shoshana Bean and Jason Robert Brown to command the stage. Amidst all the surrounding superficial yucks, she bursts onto the scene with his signature show-tune emotionalities in tow. There’s a reason her two numbers are the most streamed songs on the cast album; nothing warms musical theatre cockles like a Broadway belter broad such as Shoshana Bean cutting loose on JRB’s bread and butter: putting soaring music to the deeply-felt, emotionally-anguished — yet uplighting! — journeys of dreamers and strivers.
And why wait for the clock to tick down to unleash such goodness?
Another theatrical iso play, currently on The Great White Way: Jared Grimes’ tap-dance in Funny Girl.