Waiting for Bruce – The New York Times


“I was weeping from the second song in,” said Ms. Chavkin, who was nominated for a Tony earlier this year for her direction of “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.” “There is a purity to how he delivered his stories. I knew the songs were good — ‘Thunder Road’ is one of the greatest songs ever written. But I didn’t anticipate how incredibly beautiful those stories were going to be.”

Of his songwriting she added, “It’s unbelievably beautiful poetry. And while it’s rock ‘n’ roll, it is also simple enough for Broadway to handle it.”

She said she was particularly moved by Mr. Springsteen’s full-throated performance of “The Rising,” written in response to 9/11. The song’s “lack of sentimentality, and the fierce feeling — so much more potent now than even when it was written — that the country will rise again” had her dissolving into tears yet again, she said.

Photo

Mr. Springsteen in a limousine that was not headed to his after-party at the Hard Rock Cafe.

Credit
Dina Litovsky for The New York Times

“We were clinging to each other all throughout the show,” interjected her friend, Libby King, an actress.

Any directorial advice Ms. Chavkin would have given Mr. Springsteen? “Oh, God no,” she said, laughing. “I didn’t have a single thought of craft in my brain beyond thinking this guy has all the craft in the world, who has the ability, and has earned the ability, to stand stock-still and tell these incredibly moving stories.”

“I’m not a religious person,” Ms. Chavkin added, “but this was a religious experience.”

In another room at the party, the producer Jordan Roth was accepting congratulations for bringing “Springsteen on Broadway” to life. The show did extraordinarily well at the box office in its first week of previews, with an average ticket price of $497, and the entire four-month run is sold out except for a few tickets held back each day for an online lottery. It is also one of two blockbuster shows that Mr. Roth will be producing this Broadway season. The other is a much-anticipated revival of “Angels in America,” starring Nathan Lane and Andrew Garfield, that starts at the Neil Simon Theater in late February.

“Just a fantastic night, wasn’t it?” Mr. Roth said, clad from head to toe in Alexander McQueen red leather.

Earlier that evening, more than a few people in the audience seemed to want to sing or clap along with Mr. Springsteen as he unfolded some of his more familiar hits, an impulse quickly shot down by the singer halfway through a soulful rendition of “Dancing in the Dark” with a darkly smiling ‘Thanks, I can handle this myself.”

But, Mr. Roth said, based on what he had seen so far in the previews running up to opening night, audiences have not come to the 939-seat theater expecting the same kind of experience they may have gotten over the years at Madison Square Garden or the Prudential Center.

The anticipation that they were about to witness a typical Springsteen rock concert “lasted about 10 seconds into the first preview,” Mr. Roth said. “Bruce tells us what to expect, when he comes out and says, ‘D.N.A.’ and starts speaking text. He cues us about what is about to come and shows us yet again that he is master of taking an audience on a journey.”

This is not a concert; this is a piece of theater, Mr. Roth reiterated.

“He is so present, and we are so present, and that is the pinnacle of what we hope the theater will be,” Mr. Roth said. “This actually gets us to that point of sustained concentration between artist and audience. How often does that really happen?”

With that, the producer turned to pose for publicity photos. “Great show,” someone called out. Mr. Roth beamed.

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