Cabaret Reviews and Photographs

“Cabaret,” the Kander and Ebb musical about a naif in pre-Nazi Germany, is opening on Broadway for the fourth time, almost half a century after its first production, starring Alan Cumming reprising his role as the Master of Ceremonies, and featuring the Broadway debut of Michelle Williams as Sally Bowles. It is directed by Sam Mendes, co-directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall. 

What did the critics think?

Ben Brantley, NY Times: A little more than 16 years after it first opened, and only a decade after it closed, it feels as if the popular Roundabout Theater Company production of “Cabaret” never left Studio 54…. Alan Cumming, who won a Tony as the nasty M.C. in 1998, is back, offering a slightly looser, older-but-wiser variation on the same performance. The show’s co-directors, Rob Marshall (also its choreographer) and Sam Mendes, have returned, too, along with their ace design team, and they haven’t messed around much with a successful formula….The promiscuous, hard-partying Sally is now embodied by a very brave Michelle Williams, who doesn’t look all that happy to be there. I’m assuming that’s more a matter of character interpretation than of personal discomfort, but it does put sort of a damper on the festivities.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety:  “Alan Cumming must have sold his soul to the devil to acquire his divinely debauched persona as the Emcee of the Kit Kat Klub in “Cabaret.” It seemed nuts, but proved shrewd of Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall to retool their dazzling 1998 revival of the Kander and Ebb masterpiece, fit Cumming with a new trenchcoat for his triumphant return, and bring the decadent netherworld of 1920s Berlin back to Studio 54, the revival’s ideal venue. Inspiration flagged, however, in casting Michelle Williams, so soft and vulnerable in “My Week With Marilyn,” as wild and reckless party girl Sally Bowles.”

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press:   a revival of a revival, this “Cabaret” …is as thrilling as ever, a marvel of staging…One big change is the woman in the bob: Michelle Williams makes her Broadway debut as Sally Bowles and she does an excellent job, playing both scared and daffy superbly and singing with real heart….Cumming is as lascivious as ever….Not much is new here. But great things don’t always need them.”

Linda Winder, Newsday:  “Cumming is better than ever — wiser, more dissipated, even more deeply entertaining in the role he stunningly recreated from Joel Grey’s iconic original. And that freshness is so infectious it spills over into a landmark production that closed in 2004 but feels, with one uneasy exception, as confident — and about as dangerous — as if it has been running ever since. The exception, alas, is Michelle Williams…Her Sally is timid, bland and covered up in costumes that make her seem almost chaste.”

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: “There’s simply no wrong time to revisit Sam Mendes‘ and Rob Marshall‘s thrilling production, which is even sharper this time around, with Alan Cumming reprising his louche Emcee alongside Michelle Williams‘ shattering Sally Bowles…Underneath her cultivated Mayfair accent and party-girl bravado, Sally can’t quite hide the fear that people will see through her. Williams, whose ability to convey porcelain vulnerability makes her such a compelling screen actress, ideally captures that duality. What’s more surprising is the assurance with which she handles the song-and-dance requirements. “

Dave Quinn, NBC New York:  “The Roundabout Theatre Company has produced an exact restaging of Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall’s 1998 Tony-winning production. From the Playbill cover design to the fringe on the lamps of the tables of the Kit Kat Klub, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a time machine. That’s not necessarily a bad thing….“Cabaret” is a seductive piece of theater, beautifully designed and with stellar performances throughout.”

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: 5 out of 5 stars:  “Why so soon? A better question might be: Why not? This Cabaret is a superb production of one of the great Broadway musicals of all time—an exhilarating, harrowing masterpiece. In Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall’s staging, Cumming is the corroded soul of the show; he haunts it and intrudes on it, magnetically mercurial….Cumming’s bouncy downtown energy keeps Cabaret from seeming like a period piece, and his new costars pull their weight.”

Matthew Murray, Talkin Broadway: “This Cabaret is today what it’s always been: a terrible idea brilliantly executed, an erotic embrace that crushes the material it’s ostensibly trying to arouse. Remounting, rather than rethinking, what was done in 1998 only exacerbates the old problems, and though this version served then, as now, as a necessary corrective for the dull and sloppy 1987 revamp, it’s tough not to wish a decade and a half had inspired wisdom to employ tactics other than photocopying.”

David Finkle, Huffington Post: the overall feel is of something being recreated by the numbers….The electricity that charged the air in 1998 and for the length of that run is somehow missing.


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Drama League 2014 Nominations

dramaleaguelogoBelow is the full list of the nominations for the 20014 Drama League Awards, which select winners in five competitive categories, and also gives special awards. The winners will be announced May 16 at 11:30.

Although founded way back in 1922, this is the least regarded of the major New York theater awards because the voters are any audience members who join the Drama League, and because they have a single performing category (“distinguished performance”) with some 60 nominees but only one winner.



All That Fall

59 East 59 Theatres

By Samuel Beckett

Directed by Trevor Nunn

59E59 Theaters, Richard Darbourne Limited, Jermyn Street Theatre, producers


All The Way

Neil Simon Theatre

By Robert Schenkkan

Directed by Bill Rauch

Jeffrey Richards, Louise Gund, Jerry Frankel, Stephanie P. McClelland, Double Gemini Productions, Rebecca Gold, Scott M. Delman, Barbara H. Freitag, Harvey Weinstein, Gene Korf, William Berlind, Caiola Productions, Gutterman Chernoff, Jam Theatricals, Gabrielle Palitz, Cheryl Wiesenfeld, Will Trice, producers


Casa Valentina

Manhattan Theatre Club/Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

By Harvey Fierstein

Directed by Joe Mantello

Lynne Meadow, Artistic Director; Barry Grove, Executive Producer

By special arrangement with Colin Callender, Robert Cole, Frederick M. Zollo, The Shubert Organization, producers



Lincoln Center Theater/Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater

By Bruce Norris

Directed by Anna D. Shapiro

Andre Bishop, Artistic Director; Adam Siegel, Managing Director; Hattie K. Jutagir, Executive Director of Development and Planning


Mothers and Sons

Golden Theatre

By Terrence McNally

Directed by Sheryl Kaller

Tom Kirdahy, Roy Furman, Paula Wagner and Debbie Bisno, Barbara Freitag and Loraine Alterman Boyle, Hunter Arnold, Paul Boskind, Ken Davenport, LAMS Productions, Mark Lee and Ed Filipowski, Roberta Pereira/Brunish-Trinchero, Sanford Robertson, Tom Smedes & Peter Stern, Jack Thomas/Susan Dietz, producers


Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play

Playwrights Horizons

By Anne Washburn

Directed by Steve Cosson

Tim Sanford, Artistic Director; Leslie Marcus, Managing Director; Carol Fishman, General Manager


The Open House

Signature Theatre Company

By Will Eno

Directed by Oliver Butler

James Houghton, Founding Artistic Director; Erika Mallin, Executive Director


The Realistic Joneses

Lyceum Theatre

By Will Eno

Directed by Sam Gold

Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Jam Theatricals, Stacey Mindich, Susan Gallin, Mary Lu Roffe, Andy Sandberg, Scott M. Delman, William Berlind, Caiola Productions, CandyWendyJamie Productions, Amy Danis & Mark Johannes, Finn Moellenberg Productions, Angelina Fiordellisi, Jay Franke, Gesso Productions, Grimaldi Astrachan Hello Entertainment, Meg Herman, Mara Smigel Rutter Productions, KM-R&D, Will Trice, in association with Yale Repertory Theatre





After Midnight

Brooks Atkinson Theatre

Conceived by Jack Viertel

Directed by Warren Carlyle

Scott Sanders Productions, Wynton Marsalis, Roy Furman, Candy Spelling, Starry Night Entertainment, Hal Newman, Allan S. Gordon/Adam S. Gordon, James L. Nederlander, Robert K. Kraft, Catherine and Fred Adler, Robert Appel, Jeffrey Bolton, Scott M. Delman, James Fantaci, Ted Liebowitz, Stephanie P. McClelland, Sandy Block, Carol Fineman, producers in association with Marks-Moore-Turnbull Group, Stephen and Ruth Hendel, and Tom Kirdahy



New Amsterdam Theatre

Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, Book and Additional Lyrics by Chad Beguelin

Directed by Casey Nicholaw

Disney Theatrical Productions, Thomas Schumacher, Director


Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

Stephen Sondheim Theatre

Book by Douglas McGrath, Music by Barry Mann and Carole King, Lyrics by Cynthia Weil and Gerry Goffin

Directed by Marc Bruni

Paul Blake, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Jeffrey A. Sine, Richard A. Smith, Mike Bosner, Harriet N. Leve/Elaine Krauss, Terry Schnuck, Orin Wolf, Patty Baker/Good Productions, Roger Faxon, Larry Magid, Kit Seidel, Lawrence S. Toppall, Fakston Productions/Mary Solomon, William Court Cohen, John Gore, BarLor Productions, Matthew C. Blank, Tim Hogue, Joel Hyatt, Marianne Mills, Michael J. Moritz, Jr., StylesFour Productions, Brunish & Trinchero, Jeremiah J. Harris, producers


The Bridges of Madison County

Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

Book by Marsha Norman, Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown

Directed by Bartlett Sher

Jeffrey Richards, Stacey Mindich, Jerry Frankel, Gutterman Chernoff, Hunter Arnold, Ken Davenport, Carl Daikeler, Michael DeSantis, Aaron Priest, Libby Adler Mages/Mari Glick Stuart, Scott M. Delman, Independent Presenters Network, Red Mountain Theatre Company, Caiola Productions, Remmel T. Dickinson, Ken Greiner, David Lancaster, Bellanca Smigel Rutter, Mark S. Golub & David S. Golub, Will Trice, producers with Warner Bros Theatre Ventures and The Shubert Organization in association with Williamstown Theatre Festival


Bullets Over Broadway

St. James Theatre

Book by Woody Allen, Music Adaptation and Additional Lyrics by Glen Kelly

Directed by Susan Stroman

Letty Aronson, Julian Schlossberg, Edward Walson, Leroy Schector, Roy Furman, Broadway Across America, Just For Laughs Theatricals/Jacki Barlia Florin, Harold Newman and Jujamcyn Theaters, producers


Fun Home

The Public Theater

Music by Jeanine Tesori, Book and Lyrics by Lisa Kron

Directed by Sam Gold

Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director; Patrick Willingham, Executive Director


A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder

Walter Kerr Theatre

Book and Lyrics by Robert L.  Freedman, Music and Lyrics by Steven Lutvak

Directed by Darko Tresnjak

Joey Parnes, S.D. Wagner, John Johnson, 50 Church Street Productions, Joan Raffe and Jhett Tolentino, Jay Alix and Una Jackman, Catherine and Fred Adler, Rhoda Herrick, Kathleen K. Johnson, Megan Savage, Shadowcatcher Entertainment, Ron Simons, True Love Productions, Jamie deRoy, Four Ladies & One Gent, John Arthur Pinckard, Greg Nobile, Stewart Lane and Bonnie Comley, Exeter Capital/Ted Snowdon, Ryan Hugh Mackey, Cricket-CTM Media/Mano-Horn Productions, Dennis Grimaldi/Margot Astrachan, Hello Entertainment/Jamie Bendell, Michael T. Cohen/Joe Strola, Joseph and Carson Gleberman/William Megevick, Green State Productions, Robert Greenblatt, producers in association with Hartford Stage and The Old Globe


Murder For Two

Second Stage Theatre/New World Stages

Book and Music by Joe Kinosian, Book and Lyrics by Kellan Blair

Directed by Scott Schwartz

Second Stage Theatre, Carole Rothman, Artistic Director; Casey Reitz, Executive Director; Christopher Burney, Associate Artistic Director; Jayson Raitt, Barbara Whitman, Steven Chaikelson, producers



Winter Garden Theatre

Book by Thomas Meehan and Sylvester Stallone, Music by Stephen Flaherty, Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens

Directed by Alex Timbers

Stage Entertainment USA and Sylvester Stallone, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, The Shubert Organization, Kevin King-Templeton, James L. Nederlander and Terry Allen Kramer, Roy Furman, Cheryl Wiesenfeld, Zane Tankel, Lucky Champions, Scott Delman, JFL Theatricals/Judith Ann Abrams, Latitude Link, Waxman/Shin/Bergère, Lauren Stevens/Josh Goodman, producers





The Cripple of Inishmaan

Cort Theatre

By Martin McDonagh

Directed by Michael Grandage

Michael Grandage Company, Arielle Tepper Madover, L.T.D. Productions, Stacey Mindich, Starry Night Entertainment, Scott M. Delman, Martin McCallum, Stephanie P. McClelland, Zeilinger Productions and The Shubert Organization, producers


The Glass Menagerie

Booth Theatre

By Tennessee Williams

Directed by John Tiffany

Jeffrey Richards, John N. Hart Jr., Jerry Frankel, Lou Spisto/Lucky VIII, Infinity Stages, Scott M. Delman, Jam Theatricals, Mauro Taylor, Rebecca Gold, Michael Palitz, Charles E. Stone, Will Trice, Gfour Productions, producers


Good Person of Szechwan

The Public Theater

By Bertolt Brecht, translated by John Willett

Directed by Lear deBessonet

Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director; Patrick Willingham, Executive Director; The Foundry Theatre


The Mutilated

The New Ohio Theatre

By Tennessee Williams

Directed by Cosmin Chivu

Beth Bartley Productions, Thomas Keith and New Ohio Theatre, Robert Lyons, Artistic Director


Of  Mice and Men

Longacre Theatre

By John Steinbeck

Directed by Anna D. Shapiro

David Binder, Kate Lear, Darren Bagert, Adam Zotovich, Latitude Link/Piedmont Productions, Raise The Roof, Paula Marie Black, Marc Turtletaub, Ruth Hendel/Barbara Whitman, Marianne Mills/Jayne Baron Sherman, Martin Massman, Judy Kent/Wendy Knudsen, Kevin Niu, Michael Watt, and The Shubert Organization, producers


A Raisin in the Sun

Ethel Barrymore Theatre

By Lorraine Hansberry

Directed by Kenny Leon

Scott Rudin, Roger Berlind, Eli Bush, Jon B. Platt, Scott M. Delman, Roy Furman, Stephanie P. McClelland, Ruth Hendel, Sonia Friedman/Tulchin Bartner, The Araca Group, Heni Koenigsberg, Daryl Roth, Joan Raffe and Jhett Tolentino, Joey Parnes, S.D. Wagner, John Johnson, producers


Twelfth Night, or What You Will

Belasco Theatre

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Tim Carroll

Sonia Friedman Productions, Scott Landis, Roger Berlind, Glass Half Full Productions/Just For Laughs Theatricals, 1001 Nights Productions, Tulchin Bartner Productions, Jane Bergère, Paula Marie Black, Rupert Gavin, Stephanie P. McClelland, Shakespeare’s Globe Centre USA, Max Cooper, Tanya Link Productions and Shakespeare Road, producers


Waiting For Godot

Cort Theatre

By Samuel Beckett

Directed by Sean Mathias

Stuart Thompson, Nomango Productions, Jon B. Platt, Elizabeth Williams/Jack M. Dalgleish, producers





Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Belasco Theatre

Book by John Cameron Mitchell, Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask

Directed by Michael Mayer

David Binder, Jayne Baron Sherman, Barbara Whitman, Latitude Link, Patrick Catullo, Raise The Roof, Paula Marie Black, Colin Callender, Ruth Hendel, Saron Karmazin, Martian Entertainment, Stacey Mindich, Eric Schnall and The Shubert Organization, producers


Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill

Circle in the Square Theatre

by Lanie Robertson

Directed by Lonny Price

Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Jessica Genick, Will Trice, Ronald Frankel, Rebecca Gold, Roger Berlind, Ken Grenier, Gabrielle Palitz, Irene Gandy, Gfour Productions, producers


Les Misérables

Imperial Theatre

Music by Claude-Michel Schonberg, Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer

Original French Text by Alain Boubilil and Jean-Marc Natel

Directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell

Cameron Mackintosh, producer



Roundabout Theatre Company/American Airlines Theatre

Music by Jeanine Tesori, Book and Lyrics by Brian Crawley

Directed by Leigh Silverman

Todd Haimes, Artistic Director; Harold Wolpert, Managing Director; Julia Levy, Executive Director


PLEASE NOTE: The Roundabout Theatre Company production of Cabaret received The Drama League’s Outstanding Revival of a Musical Award in 1998, during its original engagement.  Therefore, it is ineligible for a production nomination this season.  However, it was determined that the cast of the production would be eligible for consideration.




One winner is selected from this category.  The recipient can only receive the award once during his or her career.


Reed Birney, Casa Valentina

Steven Boyer, Hand to God

Zach Braff, Bullets over Broadway

Arnie Burton, The Mystery of Irma Vep

Michael Cerveris, Fun Home

Nick Cordero, Bullets over Broadway

Bryan Cranston, All the Way

Alan Cumming, Cabaret

Tyne Daly, Mothers and Sons

Mary Bridget Davies, A Night With Janis Joplin

Gabriel Ebert, Casa Valentina

Carson Elrod, The Heir Apparent

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, The Comedy of Errors

Sutton Foster, Violet

James Franco, Of Mice and Men

Peter Friedman, The Open House

Michael C. Hall, The Realistic Joneses

Lena Hall, Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Joshua Henry, Violet

James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin

LaTanya Richardson Jackson, A Raisin in the Sun

Ramin Karimloo, Les Misérables

Andy Karl, Rocky

Adriane Lenox, After Midnight

Tracy Letts, The Realistic Joneses

Zachary Levi, First Date

Sydney Lucas, Fun Home

Taylor Mac, Good Person of Szechwan

Jefferson Mays, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

Idina Menzel, If/Then

Laurie Metcalf, Domesticated

Jessie Mueller, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

Chris O’Dowd, Of Mice and Men

Kelli O’Hara, The Bridges of Madison County

Estelle Parsons, The Velocity of Autumn

Steven Pasquale, The Bridges of Madison County

Jeremy Pope, Choir Boy

Zachary Quinto, The Glass Menagerie

Daniel Radcliffe, The Cripple of Inishmaan

Ruben Santiago-Hudson, How I Learned What I Learned

Margo Seibert, Rocky

Robert Sella, The Mystery of Irma Vep

Tony Shalhoub, Act One

Jennifer Simard, Disaster!

Brian J. Smith, The Glass Menagerie

Patrick Stewart, Waiting for Godot

John Douglas Thompson, Satchmo at the Waldorf

Denzel Washington, A Raisin in the Sun

Michelle Williams, Cabaret    


Hedwig and the Angry Inch Reviews and Photographs: Neil Patrick Harris Rocks Broadway In A Dress

Neil Patrick Harris stars as an “internationally ignored” East German transgender rock singer in the first Broadway production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” a musical by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask that began life 20 years ago in a downtown drag-punk club called Squeezebox.

The musical’s name is also the name of the band, whose lead singer, Hedwig (Harris), tells his over-the-top story in some dozen rock songs and the monologues in-between. Harris, best-known for his roles on the TV shows “Doogie Howser  MD” and “How I Met Your Mother” and for his hosting duties on the Tony and Emmy Awards, has performed in three previous Broadway productions.the last time in Sondheim’s “Assassins,” which opened April 22, 2004 ten years ago to the day that “Hedwig” is opening at the Belasco.

What did the critics think?

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “a pile of toxic swill..pointless androgynous freak show …Mr. Harris has many talents, but I have no idea what attracted him to this creepfest, staged by Michael Mayer with a G-string sledgehammer.”

Ben Brantley, New York Times:  “Do not be alarmed by recent reports that Neil Patrick Harris, an irresistibly wholesome television presence, has fallen deeply and helplessly into the gap that separates men from women, East from West, and celebrity from notoriety. There’s no need to fear for his safety, much less his identity. Quite the contrary. Playing an “internationally ignored song stylist” of undefinable gender in“Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” Mr. Harris is in full command of who he is and, most excitingly, what he has become with this performance. That’s a bona fide Broadway star, the kind who can rule an audience with the blink of a sequined eyelid…while Mr. Harris may let you see him sweat as he struts, slithers and leaps through this shamelessly enjoyable show, rousingly directed by Michael Mayer (“Spring Awakening,” “American Idiot”), he never makes it feel like heavy lifting.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: Director Michael Mayer has been twice blessed. He has an undervalued score — some of the 10 songs here like “Wicked Little Town,” ”Origin of Love” and “Wig in a Box” deserve to be on iPods everywhere — and a stunning leading man who is willing to eat cigarettes and lick the stage ….Rarely does a role fit a performer so well. Harris is funny, twisted, poignant, outrageous, bizarre, silly and very, very human.”

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: The screaming starts when a bespangled Neil Patrick Harris parachutes onstage in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and doesn’t stop until he’s back in his dressing room. That’s the kind of rock-star performance he gives in this spectacular revival… It’s astonishing how polished a physical performance Harris gives. Channeling his inner Rockette, along with Iggy Pop and Lou Reed by way of the Ramones, he carries off some advanced dance and acrobatic moves, while showing a lot of shapely leg.”

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: “Harris is beyond fabulous, holds nothing back and plays it any way but safe in Michael Mayer‘s exhilarating production…As to the other question of how the scrappy, subversive 1998 cult performance piece about gender identity, transformation and pop mythology would sit on Broadway, the show, its protagonist and her pulse-pounding band tear up the Belasco stage like they own it. If screaming rock concert-style veneration is not your thing, stay home.”

Elizabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: 3 out of 4 stars:  In cutoff denim shorts, teetering platforms and gigantic blond hair, he relentlessly prowls the stage, occasionally lunging into the audience for a lap dance or two. But it all feels a little too rehearsed, and Harris doesn’t look entirely comfortable clambering over the bombed-out set. Only when he finally clicks with the material — as on the heartbreaking “Wig in a Box,” about the process of becoming someone else — is the show suddenly worth the effort he’s poured into it.

Matthew Murray, Talkin’ Broadway: “With Hedwig less a has-been on the way out than a hasn’t-yet-been on the way up, the emotional surge that should drive the show is absent.. [Neil Patrick Harris's] aching sweetness and deft ad-libbing about everything from drum fills to David Belasco’s ghost draw you in….For what’s supposed to be an acquired taste, this time around [Hedwig is] certainly content with being as bland as her surroundings allow.”

Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: A- “Purists may balk at Harris’ punk-lite vocals on Trask’s infectiously rockin’ score — he’s less Iggy, more pop — and his threats to ”cut you, bitch” come off with more of a wink than actual menace. But in a bravura performance, the actor proves the perfect instrument for Hedwig’s transition into world-class superstardom. He’s honed his showmanship on four Tony Awards gigs, of course. But he’s looser here, and lewder, more spontaneous and quick on his pumps.”

Matt Windham, AMNY, 3 1/2 stars out of four: “While no one can doubt Harris’ fierce theatricality, strong voice and expert handling of the comedy aspects, his Hedwig has yet to come together as a fully-developed, vulnerable character. But given the role’s extreme complexity and grueling physical demands, that’s more than understandable. Chances are that his performance will improve as the run continues. The new setting affects the show’s credibility. Would a strange, struggling performer really be invited to perform on a Broadway stage? But as it is, this remains a wildly enjoyable production of one of the most exciting and inventive rock musicals of all time.  

David Cote, Time Out New York, five stars out of five:  “Harris makes Broadway rock harder than it ever has before….”

Brendan Lemon, Financial Times, four stars out of five: “Audiences….have come to see Harris, a major American television star owing to How I Met Your Mother, give glam rock a workout. But the evening, even with the longueurs of its storytelling, manages to make us think about not just gender-based aspects of love but also the cold war, cheap American pop music, and the price of fame.


Here are photographs from the production. Click on any one to see it enlarged.




2014 Outer Critics Circle Nominations: Gentlemen’s Guide, Aladdin, Fun Home Lead.


“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”, “Aladdin” and “Fun Home” had the greatest number of nominations for the 64th annual Outer Critics Circle Awards. Here is the complete list:


Act One

All the Way

Casa Valentina

Outside Mullingar

The Realistic Joneses



After Midnight


Beautiful  The Carole King Musical

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder





Choir Boy

The Explorer’s Club

The Heir Apparent

Stage Kiss



Far From Heaven

Fun Home

Murder For Two


What’s It All About?  Bacharach Reimagined



(Broadway or Off-Broadway)


Beautiful  The Carole King Musical

Fun Home

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder




(Broadway or Off-Broadway)


The Bridges of Madison County

Fun Home

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

If / Then




(Broadway or Off-Broadway)

The Cripple of Inishmaan

The Glass Menagerie


Twelfth Night

The Winslow Boy



(Broadway or Off-Broadway)


Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill

Les Misérables




Tim Carroll    Twelfth Night

Michael Grandage    The Cripple of Inishmaan

Lindsay Posner   The Winslow Boy

Bill Rauch    All the Way

Lyndsey Turner    Machinal



Warren Carlyle    After Midnight

Laurence Connor & James Powell    Les Misérables

Sam Gold    Fun Home

Alex Timbers    Rocky

Darko Tresnjak    A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder



Warren Carlyle   After Midnight

Peggy Hickey    A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

Steven Hoggett & Kelly Devine    Rocky

Casey Nicholaw    Aladdin

Susan Stroman    Bullets Over Broadway



(Play or Musical)

Christopher Barreca    Rocky

Beowulf Boritt    Act One

Bob Crowley    Aladdin

Es Devlin    Machinal

Alexander Dodge    A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder



(Play or Musical)

Gregg Barnes    Aladdin

Linda Cho    A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

William Ivey Long    Bullets Over Broadway

Jenny Tiramani    Twelfth Night

Isabel Toledo    After Midnight




(Play or Musical)
Kevin Adams    Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Howell Binkley    After Midnight

Paule Constable    Les Misérables

Natasha Katz    Aladdin

Philip S. Rosenberg    A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder



Bryan Cranston    All the Way

Ian McKellen    No Man’s Land

Brían F. O’Byrne    Outside Mullingar

Mark Rylance    Twelfth Night

Tony Shaloub    Act One



Tyne Daly    Mothers and Sons

Rebecca Hall    Machinal

Jessica Hecht    Stage Kiss

Cherry Jones    The Glass Menagerie

Estelle Parsons    The Velocity of Autumn



Michael Cerveris    Fun Home

Neil Patrick Harris    Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Andy Karl    Rocky

Jefferson Mays    A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

Bryce Pinkham    A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder



Sutton Foster    Violet

Audra McDonald    Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill

Jessie Mueller    Beautiful  The Carole King Musical

Kelli O’Hara    The Bridges of Madison County

Michelle Williams    Cabaret



Paul Chahidi    Twelfth Night

Michael Cyril Creighton   Stage Kiss

John McMartin   All the Way

Alessandro Nivola   The Winslow Boy

Brian J. Smith    The Glass Menagerie



Barbara Barrie   I Remember Mama

Andrea Martin   Act One

Sophie Okonedo   A Raisin in the Sun

Anika Noni Rose   A Raisin in the Sun

Mare Winningham   Casa Valentina



Danny Burstein   Cabaret

Nick Cordero   Bullets Over Broadway

Joshua Henry   Violet

James Monroe Iglehart   Aladdin

Jarrod Specter   Beautiful  The Carole King Musical



Judy Kuhn   Fun Home

Anika Larsen   Beautiful  The Carole King Musical

Sydney Lucas   Fun Home

Marin Mazzie    Bullets Over Broadway  

Lisa O’Hare   A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder



Jim Brochu    Character Man

Debra Jo Rupp    Becoming Dr. Ruth

Ruben Santiago-Hudson    How I Learned What I Learned

Alexandra Silber    Arlington

John Douglas Thompson    Satchmo at the Waldorf



(Presented for an American play, preferably by a new playwright)

Scott Z. Burns    The Library

Eric Dufault    Year of the Rooster

Madeleine George    The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence

Steven Levenson    The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin

Lauren Yee    The Hatmaker’s Wife


Nominations Talley for 3 or more:

 A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder 11; Aladdin  8; Fun Home  7; Rocky  6; After Midnight  5; Beautiful  5Twelfth Night  5; Act One  4; All the Way  4; Bullets Over Broadway  4; Machinal  4; Cabaret  3; The Glass Menagerie  3; Hedwig and the Angry Inch  3; Les Miserables  3; Stage Kiss  3; Violet  3; The Winslow Boy  3

The winners of the following categories will be announced on Monday, May 12th and the annual awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, May 22nd  (4PM) at the legendary Sardi’s Restaurant.


Outer Critics Circle is the organization of writers and commentators covering New York theater for out-of-town newspapers, national publications and other media.


The Velocity of Autumn Review: Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella Fight, Age

With the best title of any Broadway play this season, two always-impressive actors as the cast, and a theme of loss and aging that hits close to home, “The Velocity of Autumn” is the sort of play you want to root for, even when its premise is preposterous, and its outcome predictable.
Estelle Parsons plays Alexandra, a 79-year-old painter who has barricaded herself in her Park Slope brownstone, and filled her parlor with Molotov Cocktails, holding her father’s ancient zippo lighter at the ready, although as Eric Coble’s play begins, she has fallen asleep.
Suddenly, we see a man, a pony-tailed aging hippie, climbing up the mammoth tree outside her home, and entering through the window.
Alexandra wakes up and screams.
“Hey mom,” the intruder greets her.
Chris (Stephen Spinella), who is also an artist (albeit working in a shoe store) and the youngest of Alexandra’s three children, has been estranged from the family for decades, but he has come for a visit, at the urging of his two siblings, to try to convince his mother to stop threatening to blow up the block.
She is doing so because her children are worried about her lapses, and wonder whether she might not be better off in a nursing home. If Alexandra is feeling old, it is all the more so because of the way her children treat her.
In the conversation that follows over 90 intermission-less minutes, we get some insights that feel spot-on about what it feels like to be aging – the indignities, the unexplained aches, the constant surprises, the hidden benefits that one could do without: “One of the few pleasures, I have to say, of growing old,” Alexandra says wryly at one point, “is that I can re-read some of my favorite mysteries and still have no idea who’s going to do it.”
In “The Velocity of Autumn,” we sense who’s not going to do it within the first few minutes. The playwright’s plot device can’t stand up to even a few seconds of scrutiny. But at his best, Coble, making his Broadway debut, offers a line or an exchange odd or intriguing enough to feel like just compensation for the missing dramatic tension. Chris’s being gay was not a “dealbreaker” to his father, the widow Alexandra explains. “It just made him uncomfortable. Like Gorgonzola cheese. … Your father was a big cheese fan. You must remember that. ‘Milk’s bid for immortality’. That’s what he used to say.” What follows is a long, loopy story about the father’s unfortunate encounters with Gorgonzola cheese.
“So my being gay was like distasteful cheese to him,” Chris says after a moment.
“I’d say so, yes.”
“I have no idea how to respond to that.”
Spinella, who made his remarkable Broadway debut as Prior Walter in Angels in America some two decades ago, is enough of a pro to make the most of Chris’s monologues full of yearning and regrets, and he seems the right choice to match up with Estelle Parsons, whose most indelible performances include her roles in the movie Bonnie and Clyde, and in the play August: Osage County, one of some 30 Broadway productions in which she’s appeared over more than half a century. She can turn any part into something worth watching, and she certainly can handle a woman who’s fighting to keep from falling apart. That indeed is the underlying irony behind “The Velocity of Autumn.” Parsons is actually older than her character by seven years, but we never quite believe she’s capable of falling apart.

The Velocity of Autumn

Booth Theater

by Eric Coble. Directed by Molly Smith. Scenic design by Eugene Lee. Costume design by Linda Cho. Lighting design by Rui Rita. Sound design by Darron L. West.
Cast: Estelle Parsons, Stephen Spinella
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: 65 to 135

Violet Review: Sutton Foster on a Bus To Beautiful

Sutton Foster and Joshua Henry in "Violet"

Sutton Foster and Joshua Henry in “Violet”

Before she wrote the songs for the astonishing “Fun Home” or collaborated with Tony Kushner on the extraordinary “Caroline, Or Change,” Jeanine Tesori wrote the music for “Violet,” her first musical. It debuted at Playwrights Horizons in 1997, telling the story of woman with a big scar on her face who takes a bus ride in 1964 from her rural home in North Carolina to Oklahoma to seek out a televangelist whom she naively expects to heal her.

“Violet” was one of the musicals chosen for the inaugural season last summer of the Encores Off-Center program at City Center, whose artistic director is Jeanine Tesori. (You always remember your first.) Starring Sutton Foster in the title role, “Violet” ran for one night and got good reviews. Now that same production, helmed again by Leigh Silverman and with much the same cast, has been brought to Broadway.

Adapted from Doris Betts’s short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim,” Jeanine Tesori and book writer and lyricist Brian Crawley fill “Violet” with almost two dozen songs, a busload of characters — most notably two soldiers (Colin Donnell and Joshua Henry) who improbably both fall for Violet — and a series of flashbacks that feature a Young Violet (Emerson Steele) and her father (Alexander Gemignani.) It was her father who disfigured Violet’s face because of an accident with an ax when Violet was 13.  (The wound is not depicted; we imagine it, helped along by the reactions by the other characters.) Now Violet dreams of her new beauty:

Borrow Elke Sommers’ hair

And Judy Garland’s pretty chin

Put Grace Kelly’s little nose

With Rita Hayworth’s skin

But Ava Gardner for the eyebrows

Bergman cheekbones

Under gypsy eyes 

What’s on stage of the Roundabout’s American Airlines Theater is a deliberately modest production. The set, meant to represent a bus station, looks more like a high school auditorium. Most of the time the characters sit on chairs meant to represent the bus. The action takes place over one long one act in place of its original two. Tesori’s score is a pleasing if unremarkable mix of gospel, blues and bluegrass. We are treated to  a reliably good performance by Sutton Foster and an outstanding vocal performance by Joshua Henry as the black soldier she meets on the bus. (Henry, who was also amazing in The Scottsboro Show, deserves to be better known — and will be soon.)

Such a show I would surely enthusiastically recommend — had I not been so much more awed by Tesori’s subsequent work; were the top ticket price for “Violet” at this non-profit venue not $152; were the themes of the musical not so obvious (beauty and uplift come from within); and were “Violet” opening at any time when there were not so many other shows fresher, deeper or more exciting.


At the Roundabout Theater Company’s American Airlines Theater

Based on the City Center Encores! Off-Center concert production; music by Jeanine Tesori; book and lyrics by Brian Crawley, based on “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts; directed by Leigh Silverman; choreography by Jeffrey Page; music direction by Michael Rafter; sets by David Zinn; costumes by Clint Ramos; lighting by Mark Barton; sound by Leon Rothenberg; orchestrations by Rick Bassett, Joseph Joubert and Buryl Red; music coordinator, Seymour Red Press

Cast: Sutton Foster (Violet), Colin Donnell (Monty), Alexander Gemignani (Father), Joshua Henry (Flick), Ben Davis (Preacher/Radio Singer/Bus Driver 1/Bus Driver 4), Annie Golden (Old Lady/Hotel Hooker), Emerson Steele (Young Violet), Austin Lesch (Virgil/Billy Dean/Bus Driver 2/Radio Singer/Bus Passenger), Anastacia McCleskey (Music Hall Singer/Bus Passenger), Charlie Pollock (Leroy Evans/Radio Soloist/Bus Driver 3/Bus Passenger) and Rema Webb (Lula Buffington/Almeta/Bus Passenger)

Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes with no intermission.

Tickets: $62 to $152

Violet is scheduled to run through August 10, 2014

Joshua Henry, Sutton Foster and Colin Donnell

Joshua Henry, Sutton Foster and Colin Donnell

The Cripple of Inishmaan Review: Daniel Radcliffe Back on Broadway

Daniel Radcliffe

Daniel Radcliffe in The Cripple of Inishmaan on Broadway


There was no applause for Daniel Radcliffe when he first enters “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” the first and first-rate Broadway production of Martin McDonagh’s harsh 1996 comedy. I’m sure the many Harry Potter fans in the audience would have applauded if given the chance, but director Michael Grandage’s staging discouraged such behavior – proof that a good director can hire a movie star without turning a play into a mere vehicle.

cripplelogoIt’s undeniable that Radcliffe is the marketing draw – the poster and Playbill cover show his face three times – and unlikely that this play, which has had two previous Off-Broadway productions, would now be on Broadway without his being in the cast. But it doesn’t take a Radcliffe fan to appreciate his physically impressive performance as the character everybody else calls Cripple Billy. Radcliffe persuasively inhabits the cruelly deformed body with which Billy was born, and subtly shows the sensitive intelligence bombarded daily by the even crueler behavior of his neighbors.

Many a theatergoer is sure to find more than just Radcliffe’s performance winning, providing they are able to make two adjustments. First, we must adjust to the thick ladling of Irish accents. Then we have to submit to the dark, violent and belittling sense of humor of the playwright, who makes every character blunt-speaking and eccentric to the point of caricature. One character talks to stones, another likes to throw eggs at people, a third is obsessed with telescopes and sweets, another is trying to kill his mother with drink, yet another likes to stare at cows. They are all, as we might say by the end of the play, a wee daft.

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged

Is this because they all live on Inishmaan, the most isolated of the three actual remote Aran islands in Galway Bay? The play takes place in 1934, when in real life the Hollywood filmmaker Robert Flaherty traveled to the islands and recruited locals to make “Man from Aran,” a feature film disguised as a documentary. When the island’s gossip Johnnypateenmike (Pat Shortt) spreads the news, 17-year-old Cripple Billy decides this is his chance to escape the island. He hatches a plan that will enable him to attend the auditions, although it upsets several of those closest to him. Billy is the one who likes to stare at cows. He also likes to read. It’s not clear which behavior that his two aunties find odder. Aunty Kate (Ingrid Craigie) and Aunty Eileen (Gillian Hanna), proprietors of the island’s only shop – mostly stocked with peas and sweets — have been caring for Billy since his parents drowned when he was an infant.

Kate: A fool waste of time that is, looking at cows.

Eileen: If it makes him happy, sure, what harm? There are a hundred worse things to occupy a lad’s time than cow watching. Things would land him up in hell.

Kate: Kissing lasses.

Eileen: Kissing lasses.

Kate: Ah, no chance of that with poor Billy.

Eileen: Poor Billy’ll never be getting kissed. Unless it was be a blind girl

Kate: Or Jim Finnegan’s daughter.
Eileen: She’d kiss anything.

Kate: She’d kiss a bald donkey.

Eileen: She’d kiss a bald donkey. And she’d still probably draw the line at Billy. Poor Billy.

The key to the humor of this and many similar passages is in its credible, deadpan delivery, and the mastery of its rhythms. It is hard to picture a better ensemble than the nine-member cast that Grandage has put together.

Although he is loathe to admit it to anybody, Billy would love to be kissed by Slippy Helen McCormick (Sarah Greene) – so-called because, while she works for the egg-man, she is just as likely to throw the eggs as to deliver them. Helen is the meanest person in all of Inishmaan.

“It doesn’t hurt to be too kind-hearted,” Helen’s dim brother Bartley McCormick (Conor MacNeill) says to her.

“Uh-huh,” she replies. “Does this hurt?” – and she pinches him, twists his arm, then breaks some eggs on his forehead.

Helen is the most violent of the characters in “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” but, hers is not the only violence. Christopher Oram’s Depression-era costumes and rotating sets full of cracked stone walls and broken-down wood furniture, as well as Paule Constable’s stark lighting,  help underscore the bleakness of their environment.

Still, Cripple is among the least gruesome of the plays by McDonagh (who is probably better known now as the director and screenwriter of the film “Seven Psychopaths.”) McDonagh’s plays include the very bloody “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” as well as “The Beauty Queen of Lenane,” and, his last foray on Broadway, in 2010, A Behanding in Spokane, with its severed hands littering the stage. That was the only one of his plays set in the United States, and its failure was instructive. “The Cripple of Inishmaan” has a plot of sorts, made up mostly of a series of twisty revelations and teases that play with the audience’s expectations, and a tentative resolution that could be called bittersweet, if it were somewhat less bitter and somewhat more sweet. But, although born and raised in London (albeit of Irish parentage), what McDonagh most has to offer in this play is the culture and characters and context and above all the language of the Irish.

 The Cripple of Inishmaan

At the Cort Theater

Directed by Michael Grandage

Scenic and costume design by Christopher Oram, lighting design by Paule Constable, sound design by Alex Baranowski

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe (Billy), Ingrid Craigie (Kate Osbourne), Pádraic Delaney (Babbybobby), Sarah Greene (Helen McCormick), Gillian Hanna (Eileen Osbourne), Gary Lilburn (Doctor), Conor MacNeill (Bartley McCormick), Pat Shortt (Johnnypateenmike) and June Watson (Mammy).

Running time: About two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

Tickets: $27 to $152

The Cripple of Inishmaan is set to run through June 20, 2014

Act One Review: Moss Hart’s Beloved Theater Memoir Brought to Broadway Stage

“Act One,” the  well-meaning stage adaptation of the beloved theatrical memoir by Moss Hart, aims to explore the intoxicating appeal of the theater, but it instead demonstrates the theater’s mysterious alchemy in ways that it surely did not intend. Nearly every element of this play promises sparkling entertainment – the terrific source, the experienced creative team, a huge and hugely talented cast that features Tony Shalhoub, Santino Fontana, Chuck Cooper and Andrea Martin, even an elaborate three-tiered set that rotates – but somehow “Act One” doesn’t even begin to deliver on that promise until, ironically, Act II.

Written and directed by James Lapine, Sondheim’s frequent collaborator, as a way of celebrating his own three decades as a theater artist, the play uses some of Hart’s choice lines and presents many of the incidents from the book.

Three different actors portray Moss Hart at different stages of his life. Matthew Schechter is the child growing up in poverty in the Bronx in the early 1900s, whose love of the theater is inspired by his  crazy aunt Kate (Andrea Martin.)

Santino Fontana plays the young man, forced to leave school in eighth grade to help support the family. His first job is in a smelly fur factory, but he is serendipitously hired as an office boy for a theatrical producer, who keeps on calling him Mouse. Hart has a series of theater-related jobs – more like adventures, one more improbable than the next. Still an office boy, he writes a play that his boss takes on the road aiming for Broadway, with disastrous results. At age 17, he debuts as an actor on Broadway, playing a 60-year-old man in “The Emperor Jones” by Eugene O’Neill, opposite the great (if often drunk) performer Charles Gilpin (Chuck Cooper.) That Broadway debut, however, did not launch his career as an actor; it ended it. From there he became a social director at a Catskills hotel – a world now gone, and one Hart writes about extensively in the memoir, but is here given just a single scene. (This is not a criticism; something had to go.)

But more than half of  “Act One” the play – as more than half of Hart’s memoir – is taken up with the lengthy process that resulted in Hart’s first big hit on Broadway, the comedy “Once in a Lifetime.”

Tony Shalhoub plays Moss Hart as the older adult (the age he wrote the memoir), and performs the duties of narrator. As with most of the actors in “Act One,” Shalhoub plays multiple roles. His two other parts are as Hart’s embittered immigrant father, and as Hart’s mentor, George S. Kauffman, who co-wrote “Once In A Lifetime.” Kaufman apparently shared many of the quirks of Shalhoub’s most beloved character, Monk. He washed his hands a lot, obsessed over pieces of lint on the rug. He also literally ran away whenever anybody tried to offer him heartfelt thanks. The scenes between Hart and Kaufman as they try to hammer out the script offer a liveliness and a lightness that are the most rewarding parts of the play.

There is plenty here to keep your attention. Beowulf Boritt’s set alone is a complicated contraption three stories tall, that seems always in motion, full of staircases and tenement apartments that spin around into rundown offices and theater balconies, and then that are transformed in the second act to plush offices and Kaufman’s elegant townhouse. The cast of some two dozen, most playing multiple parts, also seem always in motion as they populate scenes that unfold from 1914 to 1930.

Yes, there are some obvious missteps, such as Lapine’s choice to begin with the staging of a scene from Oscar Wilde’s “A Man of No Importance,” which he presents as the first play that Hart ever saw, at age 11. The scene doesn’t feel witty; it certainly doesn’t communicate why a boy would find it the stage so wondrous. At best, it’s confusing, and since we’re presented no context for this drawing room comedy, it seems pompous.

But many of the scenes are more or less faithful re-creations of moments in the memoir. On page, they are moving or amusing or otherwise delightful. And yet on stage, they seem mostly… informative.

It approaches something of a cruel irony that the second act of “Act One” focuses so extensively on how to fix the play-within-the-play, since surely the creative team was having some similar discussions about the play itself.  What is on stage most of the time seems…. respectful, as if striving above all for accuracy;  the earnest, straightforward scenes rarely capture the lively, passionate, slyly humorous tone Hart establishes in his memoir.

As I wrote in my profile of Santino Fontana, Moss Hart’s name is no longer widely known, but at the time he wrote Act One in 1959, he was one of the most celebrated men of the theater.  As a director, he won a Tony for  the original production of My Fair Lady. As a playwright, he won a Pulitzer  for You Can’t Take It With You, and gained great success with such evergreens as The Man Who Came To Dinner. As a book writer of musicals, he worked with Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers; a play he wrote inspired Stephen Sondheim to create a musical adaptation with the same name, Merrily We Roll Along.  He wasn’t just a playwright and director. He produced  Camelot. He was even the co-owner of the Broadway theater (the Lyceum) where Born Yesterday debuted.  As if all that were not enough, Moss Hart also wrote the screenplays for the popular movies Gentleman’s Agreement starring Gregory Peck, Hans Christian Anderson starring Danny Kaye,  and A Star Is Born starring Judy Garland.

None of this is in his memoir – which is why it’s called “Act One. ” The book, which was a number one bestseller when it was first published, takes the readers on a funny, hair-raising and often moving journey from Hart’s poverty-stricken childhood to his first big Broadway hit.

 The best thing to say about “Act One” the play is that it will remind those who have read  “Act One” the memoir just how charming it is, and it will inspire theatergoers who have not read it to get hold of that wonderful book

Act One

Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center

Written and directed by James Lapine, from the autobiography by Moss Hart; sets by Beowulf Boritt; costumes by Jane Greenwood; lighting by Ken Billington; sound by Dan Moses Schreier; music by Louis Rosen

Cast: Bill Army (Eddie Chodorov), Will Brill (David Allen/Dore Schary/George), Laurel Casillo (Roz/Mary), Chuck Cooper (Wally/Charles Gilpin/Max Siegel), Santino Fontana (Moss Hart), Steven Kaplan (Irving Gordon/Pianist), Will LeBow (Augustus Pitou/Jed Harris), Mimi Lieber (Lillie Hart/Helen), Charlotte Maier (Phyllis/May), Andrea Martin (Aunt Kate/Frieda Fishbein/Beatrice Kaufman), Deborah Offner (Belle/Mrs. Rosenbloom), Matthew Saldivar (Joseph Regan/Jerry), Matthew Schechter (Moss Hart/Bernie Hart), Tony Shalhoub (Moss Hart/Barnett Hart/George S. Kaufman), Bob Stillman (Priestly Morrison/Sam Harris/Pianist) and Amy Warren (Mrs. Henry B. Harris).

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes.

Act One is scheduled to run through June 15.

Broadway Dogs of 2014

Broadway barks indeed. This season, dogs are in the casts of four Broadway shows. All four were rescued from a dog pound, and now perform eight shows a week. Are their Pooper-Scoopers monogrammed?

Santino Fontana’s Act One, The Unluckiest Lucky Actor in New York

“The theatre is not so much a profession as a disease, and my first look at Broadway was the beginning of a lifelong infection,” playwright and director Moss Hart wrote in Act One, his long-ago bestselling memoir.

“My diagnosis came later,” says Santino Fontana. “I wanted to be a baseball player when I was a kid.”

Fontana, born more than two decades after Hart died, is one of three actors who portray him at different ages of his life in a stage adaptation of Hart’s memoir at Lincoln Center, written and directed by James Lapine, which opens April 17th.

This is an iconic book in the theater, at least with the older generations of theater artists,” says Lapine. “It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to share this story with a new generation…and also to celebrate my thirty-plus years working in this world.”

ACTONEposterIt’s a world that Moss Hart dominated for decades, and one for which he yearned from a very young age. That first look at Broadway that he talks about in his memoir happened when he was 12 years old and finally took the subway from his Bronx home to Times Square: “A swirling mob of happy, laughing people filled the streets, and others hung from the windows of every building…” The air was filled with confetti, noisemakers and paper streamers. His first visit happened to coincide with Election Day, 1916.

“Much of the book feels apocryphal,” Fontana says, taking a break in the lobby of the Vivian Beaumont. “Whether it happened that way or not, that’s how he remembered it.”

Fontana’s Broadway is not Moss Hart’s. “So much has changed.” The theater for Hart was a path out of poverty. These days, the theater takes many in the exact opposite direction.

It is true that some still grow up with the Broadway bug, but Fontana says he was not one of them. Born in Stockton, California and raised in a small town in the State of Washington, he says “As a child I didn’t even have any idea what Broadway was. And I don’t really have a first memory of seeing Times Square.”

Still, if there is a marked difference in their life and times, so there are also striking similarities between Moss Hart and the actor who is portraying him as a young man.

That is why Lapine cast him: “Santino is smart, charming and plausible as a great writer.”

In Moss Hart’s day, success in the theater took timing and luck, as Hart writes in Act One. “Timing and luck haven’t changed,” says Fontana, who admits he’s been very lucky. But he can lay legitimate claim to being the unluckiest lucky actor in New York.

A Star Is Born Yesterday

Moss Hart’s name is no longer widely known, but at the time he wrote Act One in 1959, he was one of the most celebrated men of the theater.  As a director, he won a Tony for  the original production of My Fair Lady. As a playwright, he won a Pulitzer  for You Can’t Take It With You, and gained great success with such evergreens as The Man Who Came To Dinner. As a book writer of musicals, he worked with Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers; a play he wrote inspired Stephen Sondheim to create a musical adaptation with the same name, Merrily We Roll Along.  He wasn’t just a playwright and director. He produced  Camelot. He was even the co-owner of the Broadway theater (the Lyceum) where Born Yesterday debuted.  As if all that were not enough, Moss Hart also wrote the screenplays for the popular movies Gentleman’s Agreement starring Gregory Peck, Hans Christian Anderson starring Danny Kaye,  and A Star Is Born starring Judy Garland.

None of this is in his memoir – which is why it’s called Act One.  The book, which was a number one bestseller when it was first published, takes the readers on an amusing, hair-raising and often moving journey from Hart’s poverty-stricken childhood to his first big Broadway hit co-written with his mentor George S. Kaufman, Once In A Lifetime, when Hart was 26 years old.

Santino Fontana was 26 years old when he made his Broadway debut, in Sondheim and Lapine’s Sunday in the Park With George, following up the same year by originating the role of Tony the older brother in Billy Elliott.

“I was knocked out by Santino’s work,” says Lapine. “I think him to be a very unique acting talent. He seems to be able to do everything, from classical material to musicals.”

“Working with Santino has been a humbling and awe-inspiring experience,” says Tony Shalhoub, who plays the older Moss Hart. “He is tremendously skilled, inventive, mercurial and generous as an actor, and what’s even more painful, he makes it all seem effortless…. On breaks, he plops down at the piano and his fingers just fly – worrying me further that perhaps there is nothing he can’t do.”
Act One is the seventh Broadway show featuring Fontana, now 31.  His life may seem as charmed as was Hart’s;  indeed, his last role on Broadway was playing Prince Charming, in Cinderella.  (He played another prince for Disney, voicing Prince Hans in Frozen.)

Fontana was five years old when he first started acting: “It was a Thanksgiving play. I was the turkey. I do remember spearheading the production.”  At 6, his mother took him to a production of Grapes of Wrath. At 11, he played the Artful Dodger in a community theater production of Oliver. As student body president in high school, he made announcements every morning, and turned them into three-minute skits. He even performed in some school productions of Kaufman-Hart plays. But it wasn’t until he attended Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan one summer that he changed his mind about a baseball career. “There was nobody in my hometown that made their living in the arts. But these kids knew about theater; I felt I fit in.”

Once he’d decided on his path, it was a quick ascent.  He was accepted as an undergraduate in a joint program of the University of Minnesota and the Guthrie Theater, which hired him as a company member upon graduation. At 22, he got his first job in New York, a workshop with James Lapine. He played Hamlet at the Guthrie at age 23. A few years later, he was on Broadway.

Unlucky Guy

Then his luck took a mischievous turn. He was cast as a lead in the Broadway revivals of Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound, receiving good reviews for the first show.  But Brighton Beach Memoirs closed in a week, and Broadway Bound was canceled. The very next day, he was cast in A View From The Bridge opposite Scarlett Johansson. But then in a preview performance he hit his head against the table during a fight scene. It was a far more serious injury that he at first realized, and he was forced to withdraw from the production. “From an MRI it looked like I had been in a car accident. The doctor flat-out said ‘we don’t know how much your memory will come back.’ I couldn’t get through the alphabet without stopping. I got migraines. I couldn’t use my eyes for three weeks; I had to stay in dark rooms.”

Even when he started to recover, it was a tricky time to try to get a new role. “You don’t want to appear injured – but you don’t want to get re-injured.”

It took him six months before he did a reading. It was for Stephen Karam’s Sons of the Prophet. “I read ‘It’s been a bad year’– that was the character’s last line – and I lost it.” He started sobbing. “They probably thought ‘Oh, we’ve got a really good actor.’” Fontana was cast Off-Broadway in the role, and received solid raves for his performance.  Critics compared him to Tom Hanks and Tony Shalhoub, called him a great performer and a star in the making. “I didn’t work for a year after that.” The producers of Cinderella had cast him – but it took a year to get the musical in front of paying customers.

The oddly paired ups-and-downs over the past few years make Fontana appreciate all the more some of Hart’s pointed observations in Act One. “The theatre, strictly speaking, is not a business at all,” Hart wrote, “but a collection of individualized chaos that operates best when it is allowed to flower in its proper medley of disorder, derangement, irregularity and confusion.”

Hart is said to have had deep periods of depression, something unmentioned in his memoir, but detailed in later biographies. Evidence of such despair can arguably be parsed between the lines of Act One. In recounting a particular low point in his efforts to forge a career, Hart wrote, “I wondered ruefully if the theater was really worth it.”

Fontana can relate. “I still do that. It’s hard. There’s no real security.”

Most of Hart’s words in Act One, though, are tinged with humor, and affection, and wonder for his life in the arts.

While working on Once on A Lifetime, Hart recalled his co-writer Kaufman casually inviting him to a party that turned out to have “everyone I had ever read or hero-worshipped from afar”– from George Gershwin to Dorothy Parker to Harpo Marx. Fontana felt the same awe when he was invited, as part of the cast of his first Broadway show to a party being given by Stephen Sondheim.

In the morning of the opening night of  Once in a Lifetime, Hart described how he suddenly saw Broadway in a different light:

“The tawdriness and the glitter were gone. It seemed to stand hushed and waiting – as if eager to welcome all the new actors and playwrights struggling to reach it.”

Soon afterward, certifiably rich and famous, Moss Hart made two vows: He would never take the hated subway of his youth again, and he would never get out of bed before noon.

“I take the train,” says Santino Fontana, who is in the Act One of his career, “but I wouldn’t mind getting up past noon.”



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