The Audience and Chat Noir

Photo by Johan Persson

Helen Mirren reprises her role as Queen Elizabeth II on Broadway. We saw the London production of The Audience, and the film The Queen (no relation, but yet another chance to see the great Mirren). Our favorite was the Broadway production.

The Playbill comes with a helpful reference card to the twelve prime ministers the Queen has had Tuesday audiences with over the course of her life since the coronation at age twenty-five. As others have noted before us, the high notes are higher than they were on the West End (which we reviewed here). But we say, What's wrong with that? Her Majesty seems to prefer her Labour Party PMs over the Conservatives, however the interesting Scottish PM Gordon Brown is again miscast. Fireball Texan Judith Ivey is cast against type for “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher, yet she delivers on toughness. Another American actor familiar from stage and screen, Dylan Baker, disappears into the role of John Major and even gets the accent down. Richard McCabe reprises his historically inaccurate though super charming Harold Wilson.

The staging is brilliant, especially the quick costume-wig-and-handbag changes, and Buckingham Palace appears less chilly than it did in the London production. Balmoral Castle is cozy, with the corgis dashing by and her personal favorite prime minister, Labour's Harold Wilson, and Mirren gets to swing her hips to the skirl of the bagpipes.

The Broadway production goes further in humanizing the Queen, assuring us that life in the palace was not a total drag—even though she was taught from childhood to never let her feelings show. Elizabeth Teeter and Sadie Sink play the future queen with aplomb. Tracy Sallows is lovely as Nanny Bobo, and she can sing like a bird. Sallows understudies Mirren in surely the hardest role to live up to on earth.

Since the production is closing, it’s not a spoiler to say that after all the curtain calls, the curtain closes and parts again for a generous last glimpse of Dame Helen Mirren as HRH Elizabeth.  

Not far from Broadway, off Fifth Avenue, Bistro Chat Noir is a sweet tablecloth restaurant filled with ladies who lunch. A welcoming bank of fragrant flowers greet you as you walk in, striped wallpaper and a femmy decor. You know you’re safe to reveal to your girlfriend the size of your wife bonus or lack thereof. You may cry here, you're among friends, and the charming waiter is likely to kiss your hand to make you feel better again.

Bistro Chat Noir smells so good, it tastes so good, and the wine list contains moderately priced wines. We ordered a la carte the frisée salad with poached egg and lardons (perfect), a delicious puréed chickpea soup (classic), grilled branzino sea bass and salmon steak crisp on the outside and tender inside - gorgeous grilled fish with truffle French fries. Lunch and brunch include a famous BLT and the truffle fries. When it’s nice you can sit outdoors with your borzoi on a leash and the second husband in training.