Favorite New York Stage Performances of 2014

“As an actor, you’re often the most visible part of a project while having the least amount of say over its final form,” James Franco said recently.  Although at the time he was making both his Broadway acting debut and his Off-Broadway directorial debut, he was talking about movie actors.  Stage actors have it better, artistically that is — not in monetary compensation or recognition.

So here are some of the New York stage performances in 2014 that deserve more recognition.

The individual performers are listed alphabetically, but let’s begin with some noteworthy ensembles.

Jose Joaquin Perez, Jason Bowen, Brian Quijada and Reza Salazar as busboys in "My Manana Comes"

Jose Joaquin Perez, Jason Bowen, Brian Quijada and Reza Salazar as busboys in “My Manana Comes”

The four actors who portrayed busboys at an Upper East Side restaurant in Elizabeth Irwin’s My Mañana Comes – Jason Bowen, Jose Joaquin Perez, Brian Quijada, Reza Salazar – achieved a level of synchronicity that was a pleasure to watch, while at the same time each performer communicated both his character’s particular struggles and the tensions among the group.

Liza Fernandez, Annie Henk and Lisa Ramirez working in the poultry plant

Liza Fernandez, Annie Henk and Lisa Ramirez working in the poultry plant

Similarly, the performers in Lisa Ramirez’s To The Bone, play characters who have attained a machine-line efficiency both in their jobs in an upstate chicken factory and in the house they share unhappily together, but they never let us lose sight of their individual humanity. As one character observes, there is an order “that is much like a heart- an artificial heart – borne out of necessity- but functioning nonetheless.” So kudos to Dan Domingues, Liza Fernandez, Annie Henk, Paola Lazaro-Munoz, Lisa Ramirez, Gerardo Rodriguez, Xochitl Romero, Haynes Thigpen

Zach Braff and Nick Cordero perform from Bullets Over Broadway in Bryant Park shortly before the show closes on Broadway

Zach Braff and Nick Cordero perform from Bullets Over Broadway in Bryant Park shortly before the show closes on Broadway

Nick Cordero, the best thing by far in Bullets Over Broadway, played Cheech, a 1920s thug who turns out to be a brilliant playwright. Cordero turned out to be a terrific song-and-dance man

Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow photo2 by Carol Rosegg

Appearing on a Broadway stage after an absence of 35 years, Mia Farrow felt ideally cast as Brian Dennehy’s half-century love interest in Love Letters. With her translucent beauty and educated diction, she seemed believably rooted in the upper crust enclave in which the character is raised, but which never serves her well. Farrow ranges from flighty to flirty to fragile, with a suggestion of great feeling – much of it all the more communicated, paradoxically, because it is not expressed on the surface.

James Iglehart in Aladdin

Whatever the billing, the star of “Aladdin” is its genie, James Monroe Iglehart, a worthy heir to a role originated on film by Robin Williams. A winner of a 2014 Tony Award for his performance, Iglehart morphs from showbiz master of ceremonies to carnival barker to infomercial huckster to game show host to Cab Calloway-like zoot-suiter to disco dj to hip-hopper in a Hawaiian shirt, to yes, a sparkling-suited magical genie who emerges amid smoke from a little lamp.

When he appeared in “Memphis,” he had a relatively small part as an oversized janitor who becomes a sexy singing sensation (nods to Chubby Checkers.) Shaking and rocking it to the roof in a song called “Big Love,” he delivered a showstopper. It is too much to say he is the show in “Aladdin,” but he certainly gives – and deserves – some big love.

Red Velvet4AdrianLesterbyTristram_KentonIn honoring Adrian Lester‘s mesmerizing turn in “Red Velvet,” a play written by his wife Lolita Chakrabarti, we also pay homage to the real-life character he is portraying, Ira Aldridge, a native New Yorker who left the United States as a teenager in order to pursue a career on stage, becoming a successful actor throughout Europe, specializing in Shakespearean roles. To put this in perspective: When Aldridge played Othello in London, they were still debating whether it was a good thing to end slavery in the British colonies.
LadyDay4

Praising a stage performance by Audra McDonald – who won a record-breaking sixth competitive Tony Award for portraying Billie Holliday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill – is a bit like praising bread, or Meryl Streep. Still, she transformed what could have been another tiresome play about a self-destructive star into a precise study of character, and sang in a style totally unlike her own.Year of the Rooster 6  Delphi Harrington, Bobby Moreno, Thomas Lyons Credit Russ Kuhner

Bobby Moreno began the year 2014 portraying a touching love scene between poultry in The Year of the Rooster.  He was Odysseus Rex, a young rooster permanently crouched, an angry punk with a knife, who is charmed by genetically over-engineered top-heavy hen. At the end of the year, Moreno stood tall in Grand Concourse as Oscar, the maintenance man and security guard in a soup kitchen in the Bronx, who is an adorable lug. Streetwise, charming, good-hearted, well-meaning, he is also slightly awkward, especially in scenes with Emma, who teases, taunts and seduces him.

Over the past few years, Moreno has stood out in charismatic roles from the dog-like military veteran in Ethan Lipton’s “Luther” to an evil teenager in Robert Askins’s “Hand to God.” Will 2015 be the Year of the Bobby Moreno?

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, TheEthel Barrymore Theatre
As Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Alexander Sharp, a recent graduate of Juilliard, literally climbs a wall, and plays with a rat, and is thrown in the air and carried about by the other cast members.
His is a physically demanding role – all that getting lifted through the air. But it requires balancing of a different sort as well, offering a convincing portrait without condescension. Sharp nails the gestures, the lack of eye contact, the matter-of-fact tone.

It’s impossible to cap an appreciation of stage performances at only ten. So nods to Annaleigh Ashford in You Can’t Take It With You, Kieran Culkin in This Is Our Youth, Patricia Clark in The Elephant Man, the ensemble cast of Dinner With FriendsHeather Burns , Marin Hinkle, Darren Pettie and Jeremy Shamos; the ensemble cast of Casa ValentinaReed Birney, John Cullum, Gabriel Ebert, Lisa Emery, Tom McGowan, Patrick Page, Larry Pine, Nick Westrate, Mare Winningham. Ok, I’ll stop.

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Poll: The Worst Broadway Show of 2014

Last year, there were so many more bad shows on Broadway from which to choose.

This year, I couldn’t bring myself to add some clear-cut flops that I considered well-intentioned efforts. (But that shouldn’t stop you; that’s what the “Other” slot is for.)
Remember to judge the quality of the show as you see it, not whether it did well at the box office.
The eight* choices below are arranged chronologically by opening date. (Only shows that opened in 2014 qualify.)
Feel free to comment after taking the poll.

 

 

*Two choices were added to the original six, after a large number of respondents typed in their titles in the “Other” slot.

Top 10 Theater of 2014 You Can Still See (But Hurry)

In looking over my top 10 New York theater list for 2014, and top 10 lists by other critics, I realized that most of the shows we favored have ended their runs. So here is another top 10 list, of shows that opened in 2014 and (as of today) you can still see, though (for some of them) not for long. This list skews more towards Broadway shows than the others did, since Broadway shows tend to have longer runs. This is arranged chronologically by when they are scheduled to close, meaning the open-ended runs are at the bottom. Titles link to my reviews.

21SIDESHOW-master675

Side Show – ending January 4th

ThisisOurYouthSaraKrulwich

This Is Our Youth – ending January 4th

Usman Ally and Justin Kirk  in NYTW's THE INVISIBLE HAND - Photo by Joan Marcus

The Invisible Hand – ending January 4th

Disgraced Lyceum Theatre

Disgraced – ending February 15th

You Can’t Take It With YouLongacre Theatre

You Can’t Take It With You – ending February 22nd

Cabaret Willkommen

Cabaret – ending March 29th

EveryBrilliantThing3

Every Brilliant Thing – ending March 29th

Hedwig & the Angry InchBelasco Theatre

Hedwig and the Angry Inch – open run (the cast has changed since I saw it.)

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, TheEthel Barrymore Theatre

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – open run

On the Town 4

On The Town — open run

Pocatello Review: 10 Unhappy People In A Dying Diner In A Dead-End Town

 

PocatellowithTJKnight“There are plenty of unhappy people in the world, why should we be the ones who get to be happy?” says one of the ten characters in “Pocatello,” the new play at Playwrights Horizons by the newly anointed MacArthur Foundation “genius” playwright Samuel D. Hunter. “Maybe we’re just unhappy people.”

That’s for sure. All ten characters we see in a tacky chain restaurant in the dead-end town of Pocatello, Idaho are unhappy, each in their own way.

T.J. Knight, best known for Grey’s Anatomy, portrays Eddie, the manager of an unnamed family restaurant that some might recognize as an Olive Garden, which the chain is about to shut down for lack of business. Eddie, desperately trying to keep it going, has kept its imminent closure a secret from his staff.

Eddie has designated this “Famiglia Week” in the restaurant, encouraging the other employees to bring their families. We meet Eddie’s own family, which includes his disapproving mother, and his long out-of-touch brother, who is visiting Pocatello with his wife, having long ago gotten the hell out of his hometown. Eddie’s father, we eventually learn, committed suicide when Eddie was 13.

Troy, Eddie’s high school friend, has worked at the restaurant for eight years, and brings along his Alzheimer-inflicted father Cole, his alcoholic wife Tammy, and his sullen, bulimic teenage daughter Becky, who says things like “I just like hate everything about life.”

Then there is waiter Max, a meth-head living in a court-ordered halfway house, and waitress Isabella, whose parents died in a car crash when she was 12.

Hunter has written about unhappy people before, proving himself a skilled and compassionate dramatist in such memorable and engaging works as “The Whale,” which focuses on a man trapped in his 600-pound body. But here, the unhappiness feels both static and piled on.  Perhaps the difference is in Hunter’s choice this time around to present so many characters, whose collective and cumulatively dreary lives push us away rather than draw us in. It’s an interesting contrast with the other play about unhappiness that opened this week, the solo show “Every Brilliant Thing,” which offers its character – and the audience – a way out.

I did a search of Pocatello, which is a real town of about 54,000 in Idaho with an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent, far lower than New York City’s (The latest news headline: “Four more cows escape from Pocatello meat plant.”) Surely there are some happy people there.

If “Pocatello” doesn’t register as effectively as Hunter’s previous work, it is receiving a first-rate production, with good ensemble acting directed by Davis McCallum, and a spot-on design. There are also richly observed, simultaneously authentic and comic moments, such as one in which Eddie admits uncomfortably to his staff that he’s gay – without anybody actually saying the word “gay.”

“You know I’m bi,” says Max the methhead (Cameron Scoggins) after an uncomfortable pause.

Isabelle: Bullshit.

Max: No, really. I don’t fall in love with a gender, I fall in love with a person. I’m attracted to people.

Eddie: Have you ever—…?

Max: Oh, no. I mean not that I wouldn’t. I just—. It hasn’t come up.

  

Pocatello

Playwrights Horizons

By Samuel D. Hunter; directed by Davis McCallum; sets by Lauren Helpern; costumes by Jessica Pabst; lighting by Eric Southern; sound by Matt Tierney; production stage manager, Lisa Ann Chernoff.

Cast: Jessica Dickey (Tammy), Jonathan Hogan (Cole), Crystal Finn (Kelly), Brian Hutchison (Nick), Leah Karpel (Becky), T. R. Knight (Eddie), Cameron Scoggins (Max), Brenda Wehle (Doris), Danny Wolohan (Troy) and Elvy Yost (Isabelle).

Running time: 100 minutes with no intermission.

Pocatello is scheduled to run through January 4, 2014

 

Holiday Shows in New York Christmas 2014. Broadway Christmas Week Schedule

RadioCityChristmasSpectacular-ETS-Santas01-1

All but three of the 35 Broadway shows currently playing are offering Monday night performances on Christmas week, and many have scheduled matinees on the Friday after Christmas Day. (Scroll to the bottom for the complete schedule)

Of course, a show on Christmas is not necessarily the same thing as a Christmas show, of which there are plenty — and not all of them are happening on Christmas itself:  Several have already ended their runs this year. One, the 16th annual reading of Times Square Angel written by and starring Charles Busch at Theater for the New City, is happening tonight (Monday, December 15th.)

Below are a selection of holiday shows that vary in tone and intended audience; some are raunchy parodies of holiday shows not suitable for children.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular (pictured above)

November 7-December 31 at Radio City Music Hall

A Christmas Memory

Ashley Robinson, Silvano Spagnuolo and Alice Ripley

Ashley Robinson, Silvano Spagnuolo and Alice Ripley

November 25-January 4 at the DR2 Theatre

A Christmas Memory, featuring Alice Ripley, is a musical adapted from Truman Capote’s short story

The Asphalt Christmas through December 21, 2014

AsphaltChristmas2

The Bells of St. Mary’s meets The Exorcist in this outrageous satire that celebrates Hollywood Christmas movies, with a nod to the Carol Burnett Show.

Distorted Kristmess

Through December 19 at the Laurie Beechman Theater

The Nutcracker

Through January 3 at the David H. Koch Theater

09_Nutcracker_TPeck_C34802-08George Balanchine’s 1954 classic.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Through December 28 at Madison Square Garden

12557_show_landscape_large_02 Dr. Seuss tale put on stage.

Carolines Holiday Comedy Show

Through December 23 at Carolines on Broadway

Christmas with the Crawfords

Through December 27 at the Abrons Arts Center Playhouse

RLaeY49H_IvcfP6OTdaJtjcztzu5n8K8QBRJAW3Ys8lIMThauneG0fObaEizXYRwyRQbWIvgNNSnDEUB66d4MqWOysO5X5gAgBQDwW5N6esG1NQBqf2MpcpBTLArvWLQagA campy Mommie Dearest spoof that’s been around since 1992, starring Joey Arias as Joan Crawford

A Christmas Carol

Through December 21 at the Queens Theatre

New York Pops – Kelli and Matthew: Home for the Holidays

December 19 and 20 at Carnegie Hall

KelliandMatthewM

New York Pops – Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer

December 21 at Carnegie Hall

Jackie Beat on Ice

December 20 and 21 at the Laurie Beechman Theater

imageJackie Beat in her 17th annual Christmas show

Coca-Cola Winter Wonderland

December 20 at the Apollo Theater

The Snow Maiden

December 21 at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts

A Russian Christmas version of the Cinderella story.

A Christmas Carol: The Musical

Through December 30 at the Players Theatre

cropped-CC-Header-20141

Broadway Christmas Week Schedule

Show Title Mon Dec. 22 Tues Dec. 23 Wed Dec. 24 Thur Dec. 25 Fri
Dec. 26
Sat
Dec. 27
Sun Dec. 28
A Delicate Balance 7pm 7pm 2pm,8pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm
Aladdin 7pm 2pm, 7pm 2pm,8pm 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 1pm,6:30pm
Beautiful: The Carole Kind Musical 7pm 7pm 2pm,7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm,7pm
Book of Mormon, The 7pm 2pm, 7pm 7pm 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 7pm
Cabaret 7pm 7pm 2pm,8pm 8pm 8pm 2:00pm, 8pm 2pm,7:30pm
Chicago 8pm 8pm DARK 8pm 8pm 2:30pm, 8pm 3pm,7:30pm
Cinderella DARK 7pm 2pm,7:30pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
Constellations 7pm 7pm 7pm 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 7pm
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The 8pm 7pm 2pm,8pm 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm,7pm
Disgraced 8pm 7pm 2pm,7pm 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm,7pm
Elephant Man, The 8pm 7pm 2pm,8pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, A 7pm 7pm 2pm,8pm 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm,7:30pm
Hedwig and the Angry Inch 8pm 8pm 8pm 8pm 8pm 7pm,10pm 3pm,7pm
Honeymoon in Vegas 8pm 7pm 2pm,8pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
If/Then 8pm 8pm 2pm,7pm 8pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm,7:30pm
It’s Only A Play 7pm 7pm 2pm,8pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
Jersey Boys DARK 7pm 2pm,7pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm,7pm
Kinky Boots 8pm 7pm 2pm,8pm 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm,7:30pm
Last Ship, The 8pm 7pm 2pm,8pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
Les Miserables 8pm 7pm 2pm,8pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
Lion King, The 7pm 2pm, 7pm 2pm,7pm 8pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 1pm, 6:30pm
Mamma Mia! 8pm 8pm 8pm 8pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 7pm
Matilda DARK 7pm 2pm,8pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm,8pm
Motown: The Musical 7:30pm 7:30pm 2pm 7:30pm 2pm, 7:30pm 2pm, 7:30pm 3pm
On The Town 8pm 7pm 2pm,8pm 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm,7:30pm
Once 7pm 7pm 2pm,8pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
Phantom of the Opera, The 8pm 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm,8pm
Pippin 8pm 8pm 2:30pm,8pm 8pm 2:30pm, 8pm 2:30pm, 8pm 3pm
Real Thing, The 7pm 7pm 2pm,8pm 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm,7:30pm
River, The 7pm 7pm 2pm,7pm 7pm 2pm,7pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
Rock of Ages 8pm 7pm DARK 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm, 7:30pm
Side Show 8pm 7pm 2pm,8pm 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm,7:30pm
This Is Our Youth 7pm 7pm 2pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm,7pm
Wicked 7pm 2pm, 7pm 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm,7pm
You Can’t Take It With You 7pm 7pm 2pm,8pm 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm,7:30pm

Every Brilliant Thing Review: Audience As Cast Listing Towards Happiness

EveryBrilliantThing4“Every Brilliant Thing,” a funny, fun and moving show about a boy who begins writing a list of “everything worth living for” to cheer up his suicidal mother, comes from Great Britain, where “brilliant” is used the way Americans say cool or awesome. As it turns out, though, “Every Brilliant Thing” is brilliant in the American sense too.

This is largely thanks to Jonny Donahoe, who portrays the central character, the unnamed narrator, in Duncan MacMillan’s hour-long play, which has now opened at the Barrow Street Theater, where it is scheduled to run through March 29, 2015. I say the central character, even though he is the only paid actor in the show, because the cast includes just about every member of the audience.

Before “Every Brilliant Thing” begins, Donahoe hands out slips of paper with individual items on the list, then calls out the numbers as he narrates the tale.

The first few items define happiness for a seven-year-old:

1. Ice cream.

2. Water fights.

3. Staying up past your bedtime and being allowed to watch TV.

4. The colour yellow.

5. Things with stripes.

They get more complex as he gets older:

Centrifugal force.

Knowing to jangle keys at the wildlife park if you want the otters to come out.

Not worrying about how much money you’re spending on holiday because all international currency looks like Monopoly money.

The feeling of calm which follows the realization that, although you may be in a regrettable situation, there’s nothing you can do about it.

There are throughout many astutely observed items about music, with accompanying snippets.

But audience members are not just enlisted to recite the items on the list. They also are recruited to play characters in the tale –the veterinarian who put his dog to sleep, his father, his first love. Sometimes Donahoe prompts the impromptu performers with simple lines of dialogue. Sometimes they are left to their own devices – such as the person who is asked to describe a book he hands her as if she’s been reading it, or the audience member asked to make a formal speech at a family gathering. Donahoe asks the “school counselor” to take off her shoe and sock so that she can use her sock as a sock puppet – which presumably puts the child patient more at ease, although it’s less likely to do the same for the recruited audience member.

The talent pool is deep in New York not just among professional actors but among theatergoers. Still, the set-up sparks an improvisational feel that has the potential to distract from a play that tells a real story, and has serious, even useful, and things to say about suicide and depression.

“If you got all the way through life without ever being heart crushingly depressed, you probably haven’t been paying attention.”

“Every Brilliant Thing” has been paying attention.

 


Every Little Thing
Barrow Street Theater
Written by Duncan Macmillan, with Jonny Donahoe
Directed by George Perrin
Cast: Jonny Donahoe
Running time: One hour with no intermission
Tickets: $55
“Every Brilliant Thing” is scheduled to run through March 29, 2015

Top 10 Lists of 2014. The New Freak Shows. Talking Back To Critics. The Week in New York Theater.

“I believe in the healing power of the theater,” actress Jane Summerhays has said, “that it is a place where we all come together, where we take refuge, where inexplicable things become explained.”

Some find the premature closing of “Love Letters” and “Side Show” inexplicable.

Also below, my piece on the new freak shows; “Baby It’s Cold Outside” revisited once again as creepy; and top 10 lists of theater in 2014, as well as theater news about Steel Burkhardt, Sting, Billy Porter, Jennifer Nettles, James Earl Jones, Montego Glover, and the opening of An American in Paris…in Paris.

I couldn’t help including theater news from North Korea.

The Week in New York Theater, Dec 8 – 14

8

Bernardo Cubria’s 60th Off and On Theater podcast

with me as a guest:

We discuss: the complaints actors have about critics; nostalgia for the theater scene in Greenwich Village; leaving at intermission;  stAgeism and “diversity”;  how theater people are like blind fish at the bottom of the Pacific; the evolving definition of “professional critic”;  how “most critics are not trying to be mean, they’re trying to be entertaining.”; and the time I reviewed a play Bernardo was in — and reviewed Bernardo, not to his liking.

1. Edward Einhorn: Review the play in front of you, not the play you wish someone would write.

2. ACT Theatre: How is “cinematic” a bad thing?

3. Conrad Belau: You were right. but did you really need to say it like THAT?

4. Andrew Hungerford: ‏ Surely there is a way to describe this design without using the words “simple but effective.”

Usman Ally and Justin Kirk in NYTW's THE INVISIBLE HAND - Photo by Joan Marcus

My review of The Invisible Hand

With scenes that recall hair-raising episodes from both “Homeland” and “Breaking Bad,” Ayad Akhtar’s latest play, which continues the winning streak begun with his Pulitzer-winning Disgraced, tells the story of Nick Bright (Justin Kirk), an American banker who is kidnapped in Pakistan. When Nick learns that his employer, Citibank, is no longer negotiating for his release, and his captors say they are considering handing him over to the group that beheaded journalist Daniel Pearl, Nick makes a deal with them: He will raise the ransom money himself, by working the financial markets on their behalf.

With this surreal but straightforward premise, Ayad Akhtar achieves in “The Invisible Hand” (only his third play) what I would have thought nearly impossible – a suspenseful, engaging, thoughtful and provocative lesson in economics.

Full review of The Invisible Hand

9

jennifer-nettles-2014

Country singer Jennifer Nettles is the latest to make her Broadway debut as Roxie Hart in Chicago the musical,  February 2-March 29

JamesEarlJones

 

James Earl Jones – born in Mississippi, raised in Michigan, a janitor when first he moved to NY, an actor for 56 years, currently in You Can’t Take It With You – is the American Theatre Wing’s next gala honoree, in 2015.

Itshouldabeenyou artwork

Montego Glover (Memphis), Chip Zien, Anne L Nathan (Once) join Tyne Daly and Sierra Boggess in It Shoulda Been You, opening April 14.

Beautiful — The Carole King Musical Stephen Sondheim Theatre

Jessie Mueller, Jarrod Spector, Anika Larsen to perform and discuss Beautiful at the Apple Store in Soho December 16th

KirkDouglas

Issur Danielovitch was born 98 years ago today. Happy Birthday Kirk Douglas, vet of 90 films, 7 Bway shows

Kirk Douglas began on Bway but went to Hollywood “for the money. It took me a few more flops on Broadway to “settle” for movies.”

TheLastShipwithSting1

Sting  had only 2 rehearsals before joining cast of his musical, The Last Ship. “I felt like I’d been thrown down an elevator shaft,”he joked. Photographs of his performance.

 

10

steelburkhardt

Steel Burkhardt will play Kassim in Aladdin starting December 22

Theaters like NYC-based Bond Street use their art to fight violence against women.

Playwright-turned-TV writer Alena Smith  on why she and her pals left theater for television and how they now might have to leave TV, because its second Golden Age is ending

 My top 10 list of favorites for 2014

11

Pay-what-you-can nights are common. But UK’s Stockton Arts Center is offering “pay-what-you-decide” AFTER seeing show

Robert Fairchild

Robert Fairchild

An American in Paris opens…in Paris. Photographs and reviews.

HAM_Graphic_FINAL He’s a Broadway star, playwright, and now a director. Billy Porter will direct Sam Harris in HAM A Musical Memoir January 8-24 at Ars Nova.

After run at Bushwick Starr, Dave Malloy’s Ghost Quartet moves to The McKittrick Hotel (home of Sleep No More) in January.


American-Horror-Story-Freak-Show-Jyoti-Amge

The New Freak Shows

My look at Elephant Man, Side Show, AMC’s Freak Show, and FX’s American Horror Story: Freak Show:

Are we free to gawk again?

That’s what Broadway audiences are doing during the revival of The Elephant Man, one of several stage shows and television series that are bringing attention back to the freak show. Of course, the theatergoers at the Booth Theater are looking at the very hot actor Bradley Cooper, shirtless and without any makeup to simulate deformity, which is different from the way carnival sideshow audiences in Great Britain 130 years ago looked at Joseph Merrick, the real-life, physically grotesque character Cooper is portraying in Bernard Pomerance’s play. Or is it different?

Full article

BabyItsColdOutsideTaylorSwiftBillCosby

Baby It’s Cold Outside duet on South Park between Bill Cosby and Taylor Swift makes the popular Christmas novelty song extra creepy

12

SideShowBway2a

Side Show is closing January 4 – after even fewer performances than the original production.

“It’s a bit of a head-scratcher,” reacted director Bill Condon. “Obviously, there’s some puzzle piece that’s missing for people. I can’t obviously say what it is because we have very, very consistently strong reactions to the show every night….If it wasn’t as big an audience as it needed to be, it was as passionate an audience as I’ve ever seen.”

The avant-garde is not dead, writes Tim Cusack of Theater Askew: It’s just moved to Bushwick.

Avant-garde chronology:

Village 40s 50s

SoHo 60s

East Village 70s 80s

Williamsburg 90s

Bushwick 2010s

 

13

Socially engaged theater

Four of 14 theaters trying to change the world are in NYC: Siti Company, Stella Adler, Theatre of the Oppressed,  Sister Sylvester.

Can theater for social change be taught? 13 schools that try, including four in NY.

Cultural responses to & cases

Millions March

Marching from Washington Square Park to New York Police Department headquarters

Marching from Washington Square Park to New York Police Department headquarters

(Pyongyang’s tirade on “The Interview” shows power of pictures in North Korea)

14

Top102014

Top 10 lists of top 10 theater in 2014

Top 10 Lists of Top 10 Theater 2014

Top102014

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” is on most critics lists of the top 10 theater in 2014 so far, including mine. The second-most listed New York stage show: “Father Comes Home From The War, Parts 1, 2 & 3″ by Suzan Lori-Parks at the Public. But there is much less consensus about the best New York theater in 2014 than there was on last year’s lists.

Here are lists of Top 10 theater, in no particular order. Some deviate from a literal Top 10 list, either by shoving in more than 10, or by listing alphabetically. (I will add more of these top 10 lists as they become available.)

Jonathan Mandell in New York Theater

1. Disgraced/The Invisible Hand
2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
3. Scenes from a Marriage
4. Straight White Men
5. To The Bone and My Mañana Comes
6. Love and Information
7. Dinner with Friends
8. Machinal
9. Bootycandy
10. The Death of Bessie Smith

Charles Isherwood of the New York Times

1. Father Comes Home From The War, Parts 1, 2 & 3
2. The Realistic Joneses
3. Side Show
4. Disgraced
5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
6. Generations
7. Bootycandy
8. Violet
9. Straight White Men
10. Basetrack Live

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

1. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
3. The Elephant Man
4. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
5. Aladdin
6. A Raisin in the Sun
7. “Norm Lewis becoming the first black actor to take on the title role in Broadway’s “The Phantom of the Opera.””
8. On The Town
9. Bryan Cranston, starring in “All the Way”
10. Cabaret

 Jesse Green of New York Magazine

1. Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
2. Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)
3. Love and Information
4. Dinner with Friends
5. Machinal
6. Stage Kiss
7. The Killer
8. Scenes From A Marriage
9. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
10. If/Then

Jason Clark and Marc Snetiker of Entertainment Weekly

1.Hedwig and the Angry Inch
2. Father Comes Home From The Wars, Parts 1, 2 and 3
3. You Can’t Take it With You
4. Between Riverside and Crazy
5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
6. Sticks and Bones
7. The Cripple of Inishmaan
8. Red-Eye to Havre de Grace
9. Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
10. Violet

Adam Feldman of Time Out New York

1. Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)
2. Hand to God
3. An Octoroon
4. Cabaret
5. Jacuzzi
6. Love and Information
7. You Got Older
8. The Heir Apparent
9. Our Lady of Kibeho
10. Bootycandy

Richard Zoglin of Time Magazine

1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
2. Father Comes Home From The Wars
3. Sticks and Bones
4. Machinal
5. Arrivals and Departures
6. The Cripple of Inishmaan
7. Rocky
8. The Open House
9. John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey
10. This Is Our Youth

Ben Brantley of the New York Times (who cheats in several ways, such as listing alphabetically rather than by rank)

1. ‘Appropriate’ and ‘An Octoroon’ two plays (in different productions) by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.
2. Bedlam productions of ‘Saint Joan,’ ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Sense and Sensibility.’
3. ‘Between Riverside and Crazy’
4.  ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’
5. ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’
6. A Doll’s House
7. I Remember Mama
8. Measure for Measure
9. On The Town
10.  ‘Scenes From a Marriage’ and ‘Angels in America’ both directed by Ivo van Hove

David Cote of Time Out New York

1. Machinal
2. You Can’t Take It With You
3. Straight White Men
4.  The Killer
5. Bootycandy
6. Stop Hitting Yourself
7. The Open House
8. Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)
9. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
10. The Fortress of Solitude

Aaron Botwick of Scribicide:

  1. Not I, Footfalls, Rockaby
  2. Green Porno
  3. All The Way
  4. Cabaret
  5. A Doll’s House
  6. Angels in America
  7. The Killer
  8. Tamburlaine, Parts I and II
  9. Enter at Forest Lawn
  10. The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible

Steven Suskin, The Huffington Post

1. Curious Incident
2. Father Comes Home From The Wars
3. City of Conversation
4. On The Town
5. The Most Happy Fella
6. Much Ado About Nothing
7. Our Lady of Kibeho
8.  Sense and Sensibility
9. Machinal
10. Booty Candy

 

Eccentric list of best Broadway theater 2014 from USA Today
Best play: The Realistic Joneses
Best musical: The Last Ship
Best revivals of a play: A Raisin in the SunThe Cripple of InishmaanThe Elephant Man

Sting Extends in The Last Ship. Photographs

Sting, the composer of “The Last Ship” who took over the role of Jackie White in the musical on December 9th, will now stay through January 24th.

 

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged

An American in Paris Opens…in Paris. Photographs

An American in Paris, the musical based on the 1951 movie by Vincente Minnelli that starred Leslie Caron and Gene Kelly, opened yesterday at the Théâtre du Châtelet, in Paris. This stage version, which stars New York City Ballet’s Robert Fairchild and the Royal Ballet’s Leanne Cope, is scheduled to begin performances at Broadway’s Palace Theater on March 13, 2015.

Directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon with a book by Craig Lucas, the musical, which uses music by George Gershwin, tells the story of an American soldier in postwar Paris who is hopelessly in love with a French girl — and tells the story largely in dance.

 

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged

What did the critics think?

Sarah Crompton of the Telegraph called it “bold, satisfying and witty, greatly helped by the colourful fluency of Bob Crowley’s virtuosic projected designs which bowl around Paris, creating everything from boats on the Seine to the interior of the Galeries Lafayette. In routines such as I’ve Got Rhythm (which starts as a funeral dirge and becomes a life-enhancing whirl of movement) and I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise (as grand and splashy as a Busby Berkeley extravaganza), Wheeldon writes a love letter to the great American musical itself.”

Cristophe Martet in Yagg: Far from wanting to copy Minnelli, Christopher Wheeldon has created his own fantasy and glamor and spectacle full of visual ingenuity. (rough translation from the French.)

 Rosita Boisseau in Le Monde:The musical An American in Paris,  at the Théâtre du Châtelet, spins on a small cloud of constantly changing scenery showing the tourist sites of the capital city…Any fear of dizziness gives way to euphoria thanks to the golden cast and hot Gershwin music…The British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, little known in France, achieves the miracle of (almost) making us forget the 1951 film directed by Vincente Minnelli starring Gene Kelly, while making us curious to see it again…. (rough translation from the French)

Interesting article from the Christian Science Monitor: Breaking into song: How France is tapping its toes to American musicals

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