Win Two Tickets to On The Town

On The Town

On The Town

Ticket giveaway: See On The Town on June 4th, 2015 for free.

The revival, which I love, does justice to a show that made history on Broadway — marking the Broadway debuts of Leonard Bernstein and the songwriting/book writing team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The current production has been nominated for four Tony Awards: Best Revival of a Musical, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Tony Yazbeck), best choreography (Joshua Bergasse) and best direction of a musical (John Rando.)

To enter the contest for a free pair of tickets to the show on June 4th, answer this question:

What show had the best dancing you ever saw on Broadway?

1. Please put your answer in the comments at the bottom of this blog post, because the winner will be chosen through Random.org based on the order of your reply, not its content.
But you must answer the question, complete with explanation (such as at least one specific dance number) or your entry will not be approved for submission.
2. Please include in your answer your Twitter name and follow my Twitter feed at @NewYorkTheater so that I can send you a direct message. (If you don’t have a Twitter name, create one. It’s free.)
3. This contest ends Tuesday, May 26, 2015 at midnight Eastern Time, and I will make the drawing no later than noon the next day. You must respond to my direct message on Twitter within 24 hours or I will choose another winner.
(4. All submissions have to be approved, so you won’t necessarily see your entry right away: Please be patient, and don’t submit more than once.)

Jim Parsons in An Act of God: First Photographs

Jim Parsons returns to Broadway in An Act of God, written by David Javerbaum based on is popular Twitter account @TheTweetOfGod and directed by Joe Mantello, The comedy co-stars Christopher Fitzgerald as Michael and Tim Kazurinsky as Gabriel.

The show officially opens on Thursday, May 28, 2015 at Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street) and runs for 13 weeks.

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged.

Skylight Review: A Doomed Love Dissected in A London Housing Project

Bill Nighy and Carey MulliganHe’s a rich restaurateur, she a poor schoolteacher. Although decades older than she is, he prances and fidgets like a rock star, while she stands still like a rock. Yet, for six years, Tom and Kyra were in love. It was not a happily-ever-after kind of love: Tom was married, and, when his wife found out about the affair, Kyra split.

Now, three years later, when they meet again, their values are so different that the only thing they clearly have in common in director Stephen Daldry’s first-rate Broadway revival of David Hare’s 1995 play “Skylight” is how extraordinary the performances of the two actors who portray them, Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan.

They perform with an unusual combination of subtlety and intensity, in a play that is itself a rare combination of comedy and drama, love story and political commentary.

It’s been a year since Tom’s wife has died of cancer, and Tom decides to visit his old flame Kyra at her run-down housing project in a rough part of London; it becomes clear quickly that he is hoping for a reconciliation. It becomes clear a little less quickly that Kyra does indeed love him still. But as the evening progresses into night, we understand that their differing world views will trump their love for one another.

Unlike some of Hare’s more explicitly political works – such as Stuff Happens, about American officials’ plunge into the Iraq War – the politics in “Skylight” is woven into the characters’ personal conflict.

Yes, there are some clear-cut political positions: Kyra blasts the “self-pity of the rich,” who no longer talk of “making money” but of “the creation of wealth,” and expect to be praised for this loftier-sounding description. Tom suggests that the do-gooders like Kyra have a “sentimental illusion” about ordinary people that’s something of a pose: “Loving the people’s an easy project for you. Loving a person … now that’s something different.”

As even-handed as Hare seems present the characters’ beliefs, I think we are meant to see the concrete damage and inequity that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s policies have wrought; it’s in the very set and costume design by Bob Crowley – Tom’s custom-tailored suit and top coat, Kyra’s freezing flat and layers of old sweaters.

But so many of the accusations and arguments are so specific to the characters, and come amid so much else in their relationship, that one could overlook the politics of it all together, and still find the play rich in nuance and insight.

The scenes between Nighy and Mulligan are bookended with visits by Tom’s 18-year-old son Edward, which would feel contrived if the actor portraying Edward, Matthew Beard in his Broadway debut, weren’t himself so terrific. He is believably on the cusp between boyhood and manhood, with a subtle shadow of his father’s mannerisms. There’s something about the palpable familiarity and affection between Kyra and Edward which drives home just how sad it is that they’re not now, and won’t ever be, family.

Skylight

Golden Theater

By David Hare; directed by Stephen Daldry; designed by Bob Crowley; lighting by Natasha Katz; sound by Paul Arditti; music by Paul Englishby; production stage manager, William Joseph Barnes

Cast: Carey Mulligan (Kyra Hollis), Bill Nighy (Tom Sergeant) and Matthew Beard (Edward Sergeant).

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes including one intermission.

Skylight is scheduled to run through June 14, 2015

May 2015 New York Theater Openings and Awards

Some may see May as the month when theater people are waiting for the Tony Awards in June, but don’t be fooled. There are at least 21 shows opening in New York this month, including one on Broadway. AND there are a half dozen major New York theater awards announcing their winners in May. Below is a list of May awards by the date when the winners are announced, and May shows organized chronologically by opening date, with descriptions. Each show title is linked to a relevant website. (And each award is linked to a list of nominees — for those awards that announce nominees in advance.) Nothing, of course, is guaranteed about any of these shows, even those that seem the most promising. (This is why I write reviews.) There are always surprises. Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: PurpleOff Off Broadway: Green. Awards: Orange

May 2

Love Me (Funny Sheesh at The 4th Street Theater) It’s the mid-1990s in New York City, and underachieving writer/motivational speaker Charlie Styptic  searches for love and artistic achievement.

May 4

New York Drama Critics Circle winners announced

Fred and Estelle Astaire nominees announced Forever (New York Theatre Workshop)Dael Orlandersmith Forever Framed with the story of the pilgrimage that Dael Orlandersmith took to the cemetery where Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are buried, she offers a semi-autobiographical exploration of the family we dwb-danare born into and the family we choose. Dinner With The Boys (Theatre Row – Acorn) Written by and starring Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years, Lombardi), this comedy tells the story of two wise guys from the old neighborhood who find themselves at odds with the Family, and prepare them dinner to make amends.

May 5

Theatre World Awards announced

Toast0374RToast (The Public Theater) Lemon Anderson (County of Kings) tells the story of a group of inmates “fighting to keep their minds free amidst the 1971 riots that rocked Attica Prison.”

 May 7

 Melissa’s Choice (Theatre Row, The Lion) A passionate lawyer must decide between two men, and is helped by her unlikely guides at a local campsite. Cool Hand Luke (59e59) Under the scorching Florida sun, Boss Godfrey watches the chain gang and keeps his eye on Cool Hand Luke – war hero, trouble-maker, and inspiration to his fellow inmates – just the kind of man the Boss needs to crush. (They make no mention of the Paul Newman movie. Both are based on the novel by Donn Pearce.)

 May 9

Summer and Smoke (T. Schreiber Theatre Studio) The Tennessee Williams play is directed by Terry Schreiber

May 10

Lucille Lortel Awards ceremony

One Hand Clapping (59e59) Adapted from Anthony Burgess’ (author of ‘A Clockwork Orange’) 1961 novel, this darkly comic story about the winner of a TV quiz show who makes a sinister proposition to his wife.

May 11

Outer Critics Circle winners announced

PaintedRocksatRevolverCreek The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek (Signature) A  new play by Athol Fugard inspired by the life of outsider artist Nukain Mabusa.

May 14

The Glass Menagerie (47th Street Theatre) The Tennessee Williams play presented in the inaugural season of the Masterworks Theater Company. The multicultural cast includes Olivia Washington, Denzel Washington’s daughter, as Laura.

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May 15

Drama League Awards

May 17

 AR Gurney By Gregory CostanzoWhat I Did Last Summer (Signature Theatre) The latest in the Signature season of plays by A.R. Gurney: With her husband overseas near the end of World War II, Grace fights to save the splintering bonds of her family by taking her teenage son and daughter to spend the summer on Lake Erie. Starring the fabulous Kristine Nielsen, with the up-and-comer Noah Galvin.

May 18

Obie Awards

The Flick (Barrow Street Theatre) A new production of last year’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Annie Baker about three employees of a movie theater. (My review of original production.)

May 19

TheWayWeGetBy The Way We Get By (Second Stage) Amanda Seyfried and Thomas Sadoski in Neil Labute play about the morning after a one-night stand.

May 20

permissionpicPermission (MCC Theater) Written by Robert Askins (playwright of Hand to God), directed by Alex Timbers: A couple’s new commitment to “Christian Domestic Discipline” upends their lives.

Macbeth (Public Theater)

May 21

The Other Thing  (Second Stage Uptown) Kim is a journalist, writing what she thinks will be a run-of-the-mill article about a father and son team of ghost hunters in rural Virginia.

May 24

Incognito (MTC at New York City Center) A new play by Nick Payne (Constellations) about a pathologist who steals the brain of Albert Einstein; a neuropsychologist embarks on her first romance with another woman; a seizure patient forgets everything but how much he loves his girlfriend

May 28

AnActofGod An Act of God (Studio 54) Jim Parsons stars in a ” 90-minute comedy where the Almighty and His devoted angels answer some of the deepest questions that have plagued mankind since Creation.” Cagney (York Theatre Company) A musical about the actor from his humble beginnings in New York City’s Lower East Side through his rise as a vaudeville song-and-dance man, to his superstardom in Hollywood.

May 31

Drama Desk Awards

R/Evolution (Robert Moss Theater) A new musical set 150 years in the future, when governments have been replaced by corporations.

Darren Criss in Hedwig and the Angry Inch: Hot Photos

 

Hedwig & the Angry Inch Belasco TheatreGlee is gone, which gives Darren Criss the chance to take the grease out of his hair, and smear it over his body, as the latest Hedwig in the Broadway blast, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He began performances April 29th, and is scheduled to appear through July 19, 2015. He co-stars with Rebecca Naomi Jones as Yitzhak
This is Criss’s second foray onto Broadway, having served as Daniel Radcliffe’s replacement for How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying for a few weeks in January, 2012.

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged

 

Something Rotten on Broadway

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.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene soon. Photographs below. Click on any to see them enlarged.

The King and I Broadway Reviews, Pics, Video

The King and I, starring Ken Watanabe and Kelli O’Hara, is the fifth Broadway production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens, who becomes governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s, as part of the king’s effort to modernize the country.

What do the critics think of this latest revival at Lincoln Center?

Jonathan Mandell, DC Theatre Scene: 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.

 Click on any photograph to see it enlarged

Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal: The results are satisfying to the highest possible degree: I doubt I’ll see a better production of “The King and I” in my lifetime. Mr. Watanabe gets out from Brynner’s long shadow by giving a performance that is gleefully playful, regally commanding and wholly his own. His thick Japanese accent is something of a trial in “A Puzzlement,” but that’s the only thing slightly wrong with him, and Kelli O’Hara leaves nothing whatsoever to be desired as Anna. Firm but not priggish, touching but never sentimental, she stands up to Mr. Watanabe like a redwood to a tornado and sings “Hello, Young Lovers” as well as anyone since…oh, Mabel Mercer.

Ben Brantley, New York Times: 

As you probably already know, Mrs. Leonowens’s task in this 1951 musical is to educate a passel of royal Siamese pupils in the ways of the West. The job of Ms. O’Hara — and that of Mr. Sher and Ken Watanabe, the commanding Japanese film star who portrays the King of Siam — is to educate 21st-century audiences in the enduring and affecting power of a colonialist-minded musical that, by rights, should probably embarrass us in the age of political correctness.

It also involves a very, very large supporting cast, expertly marshaled by Mr. Sher and his choreographer, Christopher Gattelli (working from Jerome Robbins’s original watershed dances). If nothing else, this “King and I” is an exemplary lesson in crowd control, starting with the photorealist first act scene in which Anna and Louis make their way through the dockside throngs.

But what’s most remarkable is the degree to which every member of these crowds is an individual, defined by different and specific responses to what’s happening.
Joe Dziemianowicz Daily News, 4 out of 5 stars This splendid revival emerges as majestic and intimate simultaneously.

Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: One of the most elegantly beautiful and beautifully sung productions I’ve ever see…O’Hara is supremely comfortable in these R&H roles of independent-minded women in extraordinary predicaments…Watanabe… is strong, sexy and bewildered in a role forever owned by Yul Brynner… Watanabe is all but impossible to understand, his English so heavily accented I fear that the 35 customers who don’t already know the show will find this a barrier.

Linda Winer, Newsday: Two conspicuous differences exist between this shimmering, deeply rooted and delightful production and the original, identified almost-forever by Yul Brynner’s iconic King of Siam. First, almost everyone in his court is actually played by Asians. And the king himself is now powerfully inhabited by Ken Watanabe, the Japanese movie star of “The Last Samurai” in his musical-theater — not to mention his English-language — debut. Contrary to rumored problems with his pronunciation, every word is as clear as the impact behind it.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Director Bartlett Sher banishes even the faintest trace of mid-century quaintness or patronizing exoticism from the material, treating the 1951 Rodgers & Hammerstein classic with unimpeachable dramatic integrity and emotional authenticity that are equaled by this landmark production’s exquisite musicianship and vocals.

Matt Windham, AMNY, 3 stars: The King and I” holds up incredibly well as a piece of drama. The songs are beautiful, the characters are complex and its themes of democratization, cultural miscommunication and gender inequality are timely….It is very difficult to understand what Watanabe is saying. He has an imposing presence and highly theatrical spirit, but his diction stops the show in its tracks.

Robert Kahn of NBC: The March of Siamese Children,” in which a dozen of the king’s royal sons and daughters take solo turns greeting him and Anna, is one of this revival’s great pleasures. Another is the kaleidoscopic ballet within “Small House of Uncle Thomas,” the anti-slavery play written by Tuptim after Anna lends her a copy of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

It Shoulda Been You Review: The Worst Wedding on Broadway

Lisa Howard and Sierra Boggess as the bride and her sister

Lisa Howard and Sierra Boggess as the bride and her sister

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, or at least a family affair: Pierce is married to first-time Broadway book writer and lyricist Brian Hargrove.

Even if Hargrove’s gags were funnier, or Barbara Anselmi’s score more noteworthy, they could not make up for the absence of any authentic-feeling observations about love or commitment or weddings or…anything. What’s worse are the many little tricks on the audience, which are less often clever than confusing, and culminate in the over-the-top plot twist. I can’t bring myself to spoil the two biggest surprises, except to say that they make no sense whatsoever, violating some basic rules of storytelling, and undermining what’s good about the show.

And there are some things that are good, chief among them the performances by Lisa Howard and Josh Grisetti — amusing, charming, energetic.

I don’t mean to imply that the rest of the 13-member cast is bad. There is only one completely repellent character, that of a sex-crazed aunt who hides in closets and behind balconies stalking the male guests, and no actress could have redeemed that part. But the cast members largely do what they can with what they’ve been given.   Harriet Harris as the groom’s drunken mother may be incapable of turning in a completely terrible performance, no matter what the material. Tyne Daly expertly wrings what laughter she can from her role as the bride’s stereotypically meddlesome Jewish mother; Chip Zien is appealing as the bride’s slightly less stereotypical Jewish father.  These are pros, who manage to keep their dignity even when delivering such lines as what Daly is forced to say to Albert the wedding planner (the reliable Edward Hibbert):

“Don’t bullshit me, Albert. That’s right I said ‘Bullshit.’ Does it shock you? Good. Cause if this room isn’t ready by the time the first guest arrives, that’s going to be the nicest word coming out of my mouth. I will cut off your balls.”

Most of the cast are familiar faces; the two standouts feel like discoveries.  Lisa Howard has a terrific voice, and a great presence, and she is at the center of what comes closest to genuine moments in the show.

Her Jenny Steinberg is the main character, who (typical of the musical’s confusing tricks) we first are led to think is the bride but turns out to be the bride’s sister. She is also apparently the member of the wedding most responsible for putting it (and holding it) together.

It is wedding day for Jewish bride Rebecca Steinberg (an under-utilized Sierra Boggess) and Catholic groom Brian Howard (an unexceptional David Burtka, an actor best-known as Neil Patrick Harris’s husband.)  Nothing much is made of the interfaith relationship, except a few bad jokes, and a supposed hostility between the two mothers, which peters out.  Focus shifts to a different plot line: Jenny by accident speed-dials Rebecca’s former boyfriend, Marty Kaufman (Josh Grisetti) , who overhears her talking about the wedding, which he hadn’t known about. Marty looks ecstatic, jumping around like Snoopy on his hind paws at his most elated, singing:

It’s a sign!
Wasn’t gonna do this
though it felt so unresolved
But now I know I was right, right from the start

….it’s a sign; I’m going to stop this wedding day.

And then he crashes the wedding. When he arrives,  we think Rebecca’s parents are alarmed (another little trick), until they start singing “It Shoulda Been You,” the funniest and most memorable of Hargrove and Anselmi’s songs. It is the most promising development in the show — the former boyfriend is going to stop the wedding, with the help of the bride’s parents. A few scenes later, after talking briefly with the bride, Marty drops his effort to stop the wedding. Like the other plot lines, it fizzles.

I’m trying to avoid spoilers here, but I do wish to point out that we eventually learn he had no reason to be so ecstatic during that “It’s a sign” number, and he knew he had no reason to be ecstatic.  Did the creative team think that the audience would just forget, or that such inconsistency wouldn’t matter to us? Is this what suspension of disbelief is at its worst?

I don’t think I’ve seen either Lisa Howard or Josh Grisetti perform before, although Howard has been on Broadway several times. But I can’t wait to see them in their next shows. I suspect I won’t have to wait very long.

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged


It Shoulda Been You
Brooks Atkinson Theater
Book & lyrics by Brian Hargrove and music by Barbara Anselmi

Directed by David Hyde Pierce

Josh Rhodes (Choreography) Anna Louizos (Set Design), William Ivey Long (Costume Design), Ken Billington (Lighting Design), and Nevin Steinberg (Sound Design).

Additional lyrics by Jill Abramovitz, Carla Rose Fisher, Michael Cooper, Ernie Lijoi and Will Randall.
Cast: Tyne Daly, Harriet Harris, Sierra Boggess, David Burtka, Lisa Howard, Edward Hibbert, Montego Glover, Josh Grisetti, Adam Heller, Michael X. Martin, Anne L. Nathan, Nick Spangler and Chip Zien. Farah Alvin, Gina Ferrall, Aaron C. Finley, Mitch Greenberg, and Jillian Louis.

Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission

Tickets:  $90 – $139

An American in Paris on Broadway

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.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged

Wolf Hall Parts 1 and 2 on Broadway

It’ll be another three months before the American Revolution arrives on Broadway, with the hip-hop musical Hamilton. In the meantime, the Great White Way has been pledging allegiance to the British Crown, first with The Audience, a play in which Helen Mirren portrays Queen Elizabeth II over 60 years, and now with Wolf Hall, Parts 1 and 2, two plays newly opened at the Winter Garden Theatre, in which Nathaniel Parker portrays Henry VIII over six long hours….As I left for the dinner break between the two plays, I realized that Part 1 was a shocking experience for me. But what shocked me was how dull I found it.

Full review DCTheaterScene

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged.
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