April 27, 2015 Leave a comment
The last two weeks were the busiest of the entire year in New York theater, with the opening of the last TEN shows of the Broadway season. Below reviews of those shows, plus one high-profile Off-Broadway, and the theater awards and nominations already announced. If that were not enough, there was news of several new shows, some closings, and a show that was going to close, but has been saved.
The Week in New York Theater
Father Comes Home from the War by Suzan-lori Parks
Marjorie Prime by Jordan Harrison
2015 Special Tony Awards: John Cameron Mitchell
Isabelle Stevenson (Humanitarian) Tony: Composer Stephen Schwartz
The 2015 Regional Tony Award: Cleveland Playhouse, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
(previously announced: 2015 Lucille Lortel Award nominations)
The Week(s) in New York Theater Reviews
Both Gigi and An American In Paris are adapted from Oscar-winning 1950’s movie musicals directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Leslie Caron. Both take place in Paris. Both have revised books, tuneful songs, able performers, pleasing designs. So why does An American in Paris feel so fresh, and Gigi…not?
The short answer: the dancing. First-time Broadway director Christopher Wheeldon has turned An American in Paris into a modern ballet.
The singular accomplishment of “It Shoulda Been You,” a musical comedy about a wedding that tries hard to be a farce, is that it abruptly swerves in a completely unexpected direction, and yet still manages to be the most predictable show on Broadway.
Even more astonishing is how much top-notch theatrical talent – David Hyde Pierce making his Broadway directorial debut; performers including Tyne Daly, Sierra Boggess, Harriet Harris, Montego Glover; veteran designers – has gone into what feels like a vanity production…
Is it pointless to pan Peter?…Shortly after Peter and the Starcatcher and Peter Pan Live on NBC, we now get Finding Neverland, a musical adaptation of the 2004 film about how playwright J.M. Barrie came to create Peter Pan….In the movie mogul’s first foray as the lead producer of a Broadway show, Harvey Weinstein has chosen the route of “giving people what they expect.”…Something, in other words, big and flashy. What you are really seeing when you watch such stage effects is, above all, money being spent.
From the very first moments of Lincoln Center’s ravishing The King and I, it feels like a privilege just to be sitting in the audience. ..It is hard to imagine a better Anna than Kelli O’Hara …O’Hara has found her match in Ken Watanabe…The King and I may not be universally viewed as among the best American musicals….Perhaps one reason is its implicit politics.
Fun Home is, yes, a musical about a lesbian cartoonist whose closeted father killed himself, but it is also about how we try to figure out the puzzle of our parents; about how we reassemble our childhood; about memory itself. It remains the inventive, entertaining, in places exhilarating, and almost inexpressibly heartbreaking show I saw Off-Broadway at the Public Theater a couple of years ago. And it is now one of those rare Off-Broadway musicals that actually improves when it transfers to Broadway. This is not despite the theater-in-the-round layout of the Circle in the Square, but in some measure because of it.
I had hoped that a major benefit of winning the Cold War would be no longer having to sit through a show like Doctor Zhivago, a musical adaptation of Pasternak’s novel that presents the Russian Revolution largely as the story of a good-looking couple’s long-simmering adulterous affair and the mean Communists who get in their way.
Doctor Zhivago does weave in a whirlwind tour of Russian history of the early twentieth century, but its heart seems to be in a different era – the Broadway of the 1980’s, when musicals were pseudo-operatic, self-serious and soapy, yet somehow ran forever.
By the end of the show, despite the cleverness of its concept, Something Rotten as executed simply hasn’t added up to a completely satisfying musical. Its choreography seems too repetitive, its rock score sounds too generic, its tone is confused – as often peppy or sappy as subversive or satiric – and its plot is all over the place: Too much of what unfolds during its 150-minute running time feels like filler….Still, there are a whole host of amusing and inspired touches, the kind you might expect from a show directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, who directed and choreographed both The Book of Mormon and Aladdin, and, ten years ago, choreographed Monty Python’s Spamalot.
When the wealthiest woman in the world returns to her bankrupt hometown in The Visit, reactions range from “Her dress, her jewels…like a great film star!” to “half-Jewish, half-gypsy, 100% illegitimate: All her money won’t erase those stains” to “She’s come back to save us.” Audience reaction to Chita Rivera in the role is more uniform, welcoming back to Broadway the performer who originated such characters as Anita in West Side Story, Rosie in Bye Bye Birdie , Velma in Kander and Ebb’s Chicago, and Aurora in Kander and Ebb’s Kiss of the Spiderwoman….
At its best, the musical provokes some disturbing questions, and offers a kind of gruesome, Expressionist beauty…But it may also disappoint and confuse theatergoers expecting the kind of dark but vibrantly entertaining shows, like Cabaret and Chicago, with which Kander and Ebb built their popularity.
Airline Highway, Lisa D’Amour’s loving look at the makeshift family of misfits that hang out at a seedy motel along the old Airline Highway in New Orleans, is not a musical, but it is full of music. The characters often break out into song — and the play itself seems a lesson in jazz.
There is a feel of improvisation, although everything is scripted. And, while the individual performers get their moments for solos, the play comes off as a collective composition of overlapping voices. The 16 performers work together so effectively in creating the community that hangs around the Hummingbird Motel, that they surely deserve a Tony Award for great ensemble acting.
Living on Love
“Living on Love,” which marks opera singer Renee Fleming’s Broadway debut, portraying a temperamental Diva married to an oversexed Maestro, has some of the best-delivered songs on the Great White Way, although there are only a handful of them, mostly snippets. The show is not a musical. It is a very dopey comedy, the sort of dopey comedy you could have watched on the dinner theater circuit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in the 1950s…. Why does this play have so much in common with the musical It Shoulda Been You – a premise that makes no sense, an overlong plot full of holes, jokes that aren’t funny, a supposed theme of love that tells us nothing about love, a starry cast forced to try too hard, even a gay surprise that smacks of pandering – and yet, I find “Living on Love” so much less annoying? It’s sometimes even…enjoyable.
“Grounded,” a play directed by Julie Taymor and starring Anne Hathaway as a drone pilot, could not be more newsworthy: It is opening at the Public Theater just days after the news that a U.S. drone strike accidentally killed an American aid worker held hostage by Al Qaeda…Since it debuted two years ago, George Brant’s one-character play has been produced in theaters all over the United States..It’s my guess I would have liked “Grounded” better in almost any of its other productions…No one would deny that Julie Taymor’s “Grounded” is visually arresting. But it is also dramatically arrested. Her emphasis on the special effects is distracting and (excuse me) overkill.
New York Theater News
Second Stage has closed the deal to buy the Helen Hayes Theatre for $24.7 million, the fourth nonprofit to own a Broadway house.
King Charles III, which just won the British Olivier Award for Best Play, will open on Broadway Nov. 1, 2015 starring Tim Pigott-Smith.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daryl Roth and George C. Wolfe have been appointed to the mayoral panel charged with strengthening city’s theater district. The Theater Subdistrict Council gives out grants “with the goal of promoting the production of new theater work, developing new audiences, and showcasing Broadway’s role in the history of American theater.”