And the award for Best Off-Broadway Show You Only Have A Week Or Less to Enjoy goes to…Tim Minchin’s one-man show at New World Stages. Six shows remain, tonight through Saturday (April 12).
Why must you see Tim Minchin? Well, I already tried to tell you this back in November, when I saw him perform an hour for industry folk and tourists at The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas. Minchin returned to New York City for a six-week run that began five weeks ago, and in the past week, he has teased the crowds at the UCB Theatre (last Monday) and Union Hall (last night) with a taste of his show, which in its full theatrical production is a 105-minute tour de force of musical and comedic showmanship.
Plenty of audio and video of Tim Minchin exists online, including on his own site. But it’s best to discover Minchin for the first time live onstage. His opening number, "I’m So F**king Rock," serves as a slow burn of a reveal as to what he’s all about (Note: He also has a funny bit later on about what I did just there with the asterisks). Even with the grand piano and the lights and the theatrics, Minchin manages to sneak up on new audience members. It helps that he is a brilliant pianist. He says in the show that he’s a fan of Queen and Ben Folds and you can hear that, as well as the classical training. Many of his songs are quite beautiful and melodic. Despite the perverse lyrics. Or perhaps because of them. Better put…in his full show, you learn that Tim Minchin is one cheeky bastard. His songs include "Inflatable You," "Rock ‘n’ Roll Nerd," "Palestine Peace Anthem" (pigs!), "You Grew On Me," "Dark Side," and his closer, "Canvas Bags." The full show also includes a song about his skepticism toward religion and other matters, "If You Open Your Mind Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out (Take My Wife)." And there’s a poem, "Angry (Feet)," he wrote on his therapist’s orders that reveals a hidden subtext. He addresses fans and critics who take issue with his language and his morbid sense of humor with funny patter between the songs, and proves himself quite adept at working the crowd. A woman in the front-row convulsed in laughing fits so much last Friday that Minchin worried that she’d choke on her laughs. "I’ve never killed anyone before," he confessed, before imagining the headline. "Woman Dies During Pissing Song. Actually, make that P-i-*-*-i-n-g." More than a few repeat customers in the crowd, including one young woman who traveled all the way from Australia to see Minchin once again. As I indicated earlier, he has only one week left in this New York "experiment" before returning with his wife and daughter to London. At the end of Friday’s show, Minchin said, "Send friends. Send money. Whatever. You’ve been the best audience of the season. That’s a compliment to you, or an indication of my weekday misery." Only Minchin’s not quite miserable. Though he could use a better platform than New World Stages to get the best exposure to American audiences. Perhaps a rock club somewhere downtown such as Joe’s Pub or the Cutting Room, to name a couple of venues. Two things are certain. To truly appreciate Minchin’s skill, you do need to see him on a proper stage with a fine piano and professional light and sound equipment. And secondly, you do need to see Minchin as soon as possible. Because after Saturday, he’ll be gone for a while. Don’t let the ticket prices scare you at New World Stages (although that may have scared off some potential fans). Just go see him. You’ll be glad you did.