By Brittany Crowell

A Gaga Guide to the Lower East Side premiered in NYC on the “Queen Monster’s” birthday, March 28th.  I had the pleasure of joining the tour a few days later for a sunny mid-afternoon walk around the les of Manhattan. 

As a walking tour, the piece was wildly successful.  Our guide (thanks to writer Ron Lasko) was well-versed in the many lives of the iconic NYC neighborhood and painted pictures as vivid as the passing street art of Yiddish theaters and nightclubs sprouting up in abandoned school buildings where parks and hotels appeared to the modern eye.  For any history buff, especially those with a particular interest in musical history, this tour is for you!  I learned a lot about the city I’ve called home for the last 15 years, much of which allowed me to see some regular haunts in a new light.

Fittingly, your journey will begin at 1 Extra Place.  Bring your walking shoes as your guide Phill (played during my performance by Lynwood McLeod) will lead you “gaily forward” through the 14 block tour, giving you a full scope of the heart, nightlife, creativity, and charm of the “lower case” les neighborhood.  You’ll stop outside of 176 Stanton St while Phill sings praises in homage to their heroine, and you’ll be able to note a few bars along the way to stop at for drinks if you want to continue in your Gaga journey post-tour.

To complement the tour, the team (Lasko along with director, Zack Carey) have crafted a backstory for Phill which leaks through the tour’s narrative, threatening to take over.  Phill’s 8-minutes of fame on a reality tv show have ended too soon and the show’s producers, along with the media, did not paint them in the best light. Phill is plagued throughout the tour with phone calls from co-reality tv stars, press, and his agent, as the backstory attempts to give a differing perspective on spotlight, originality, and the manipulative power of fame.

While charming, McLeod’s performance really took flight during moments of genuine interest sharing the history of the les and of Gaga’s rise to fame.  Some of the more tried jokes and moments of Phill’s sub-narrative felt forced and less real, causing a feeling of awkward discomfort in the audience; the performance suddenly became much less believable.  However, this tour guest was still endeared to dear Phill and hopes that with some additional practice, they’ll be able to smoothly transition between tour guide and downtrodden ex-reality-tv star for future tours.

Overall, A Gaga Guide to the Lower East Side is a fun afternoon experience that I would recommend to folks interested in a walking tour of the lower east side (who perhaps also have an affinity for Ms. Germanotta), though less so for any who may be hoping for a theatrical narrative or to be immersed into a narrative outside of the historical tales being weaved.

A GAGA GUIDE TO THE LOWER EAST SIDE – by Ron Lasko; directed by Zack Carey

FEATURING: Lynwood McLeod & Adam Lawrence as Phill

Stage management by Chip Duckett; costume design by Robert Kent; produced by Spin Cycle NYC.  Regular performances April 2 – May 28, Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm & 5pm.  Run time 75 minutes; tour covers roughly 14 blocks, wear walking shoes.