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 politic

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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.

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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

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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

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Gigi On Broadway: Visually Splendid, Emotionally Threadbare

Gigi, an imitation French confection of a musical starring High School Musical sweetheart Vanessa Hudgens, is based on a novella by Colette about two aging prostitutes grooming their illegitimate relative, a child of 15, to attach herself to a rich older man….Heidi Thomas, best known for penning the BBC TV series Call The Midwife, has revised the book to align the story more with current sensibilities. Yet the new revival of Gigi too often feels akin to dirty linen that’s been put through the wash too many times; it’s clean now and has a sheen, but it’s threadbare, intellectually and emotionally….

The Gigi at the Neil Simon is a romance between Gigi and Gaston (Corey Cott) that caters to the American tourist’s romantic notion of Paris, visually above all else [thanks to set designer Derek McLane, costume designer Catherine Zuber and lighting designer Natasha Katz.]…  Hudgens does a reasonably good job of growing from girlish to womanly before our eyes, although her initial childishness is more adorable than credible. But Cott cannot disguise his boyishness; he gives off the vibe of an energetic young American, and, while he is a strong tenor, he has a speaking voice in a high enough register to suggest it may yet change. The lack of disparity in their ages will turn the musical for most theatergoers into a conventional love story. To buy the premise that he’s a world-weary sophisticate and she’s an innocent child on the cusp of womanhood, it would help to pretend their scenes together are part of a really good college production.

Full review on DCTheaterScene

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Hand to God Broadway Reviews

In “Hand to God,” good-hearted teenager Jason is forced to confront Tyrone, a violent, foul-mouthed bully, who just happens to reside on Jason’s left arm. Tyrone is a hand puppet.

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from YoungBlood“Hand to God,” written by Robert Askins and directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, opens tonight at the Booth Theater It is one of the few plays that has made the move from Off-Off Broadway (at the Ensemble Studio Theater in 2011; “frisky new comedy“) to Off-Broadway (at the Lucille Lortel Theater in 2014;  “the sweetly savage show gets the royal treatment in this Off Broadway transfer“)  to Broadway. Critics loved it in its past incarnations.

What do they think of it on Broadway?

Jonathan Mandell, DC Theatre Scene:

funny, filthy, violent and sensitive…Hand to God is not just a theatrical version of Triumph the Insult Dog. It is full of surprises.  At times, it teeters close to horror…There is also full-fledged, over-the-top satire. Each of the characters behaves in their own outlandish ways. But we aren’t able to dismiss them simply as caricatures, as we might in a Saturday Night Live sketch. We are made to understand that each is looking for ways to find relief from their pain.

This is not a play for children. There is generous use of expletives. There is sex in the show – rough sex by humans and, far more graphically, by puppets.  But it is a show for adults, with hints of psychological insights beneath the hysterical exterior.

Charles Isherwood, New York Times: “Hand to God” popped open on Tuesday at the Booth Theater like a cackling jack-in-the-box, scaring away (really) a couple of audience members at the performance I caught, but bringing peals of joy to most everyone else. In a Broadway season dominated by the usual fodder — musicals new and old, and a healthy serving of Important British Dramas — Mr. Askins’s black comedy about the divided human soul, previously seen in two separate Off Broadway runs, stands out as a misfit both merry and scary, and very welcome.

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News, 4 stars out of 5:  As in two earlier downtown runs of the show, Steven Boyer stars as Jason, and his acting and puppeteering are exceptional. Watching him do battle against his own dark side — Tyrone appears to yank him like a rag doll — is as good as physical comedy gets. It can’t be outdone — and shouldn’t be missed

Jesse Green, New York Magazine: Broadway’s unlikeliest new must-see play. I say “unlikeliest” in part because it’s the kind of intelligent, blood-dark comedy — disturbing as often as it is funny, vile as often as it is violent, and, to my mind, better for both — that would seem more at home in a small, subsidized venue patronized by locals…..As the dark comedy more nearly approaches its darkness in Act Two, with the consequences of human outrageousness brought to the foreground, the tale becomes more emotionally legible, and at times even heartbreaking.

Mark Kennedy, AP: Beware: It’s a show for those who consider “Avenue Q” too tame, for folks who think Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, is too neutered. An extended puppet sex scene had some bawling and others searching for the exit.

Gordon Cox, Variety: Robert Askins’ furiously funny comedy about adolescent rebellion against religious cant has made a smooth passage

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: A scabrously funny scenario that steadily darkens into suspense and Grand Guignol horror, this fiery clash of the id, ego and superego is also an audacious commentary on the uses of faith, both to comfort and control us.

Matt Windman, AMNY, 3 1/2 stars out of 4:  Boyer is able to separate Jason from Tyrone so completely that he is essentially giving two standout performances at once.

Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: The puppets are by Marte Johanne Ekhougen; the gloriously tacky sets by Beowulf Boritt, the taste-free costumes by Sydney Maresca and the subtly garish lighting by Jason Lyons. Clearly a singular vision is at work here, and much credit should go to director Moritz von Stuelpnagel for finding grace notes of subtlety in an unsubtle work, making Hand To God more than just a raunchy joke.

Stephen Collins, BritishTheatre.com:  5 stars out of 5. This is a major new work, a satirical social commentary masquerading as a silly farce about a demonic puppet.

Skylight Broadway Reviews

Bill Nighy and Carey MulliganOn a bitterly cold London evening, schoolteacher Kyra Hollis (Carey Mulligan) receives an unexpected visit from her former lover, Tom Sergeant (Bill Nighy), a successful and charismatic restaurateur whose wife has recently died, in this revival of David Hare’s “Skylight,” which has transferred to Broadway from the West End.

What do the critics think?

Marily Stasio, Variety: The fierce pas de deux of love and loss and anguish executed by Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy in “Skylight” leaves you breathless — and wondering how they can sustain this level of emotional intensity throughout the show’s 13-week Broadway run.  David Hare’s 1995 drama, which floored West End audiences when director Stephen Daldry staged it last year with the same great cast, registers as a character-flaying study of ex-lovers whose lives and sensibilities have diverged since they parted. But deep down, it’s a scathing censure of the Thatcher government’s political legacy of social inequality and economic injustice.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: a crackling revival

Ben Brantley, New York Times:… two of the most expert stage performances you’re likely to see for many seasons….“Skylight” is a portrait of both two very specific lives and, implicitly but exactly, the economically unbalanced country that surrounds them. The great achievement of this production from Mr. Daldry (whose artful way with a lesser play, Peter Morgan’s “The Audience,” is in evidence at the nearby Gerald Schoenfeld Theater) is that it sustains each perspective with crystalline focus. “Skylight” has what feels like 20-20 double vision.

Peter Marks, Washington Post: one of the season’s highest-caliber dramatic events…. directed with consummate emotional clarity by Stephen Daldry…Nighy and Mulligan are well matched in “Skylight,” though hardly a matched set. Nighy’s a jitterbug, a restless stage animal of a thousand tics, all kept under amazingly disciplined, almost balletic wrap. Mulligan, by contrast, radiates a steady current of quiet strength, the essence of a woman who, if not entirely sure of whom she is, will certainly get to that understanding soon. She’s the eye to his hurricane.

Robert Kahn, WNBC: an artfully performed drama set in the 1990s in Great Britain..Carey Mulligan is great here…Bill Nighy, reprising a role he first played in 1997, is excellent at portraying his irritation with his surroundings

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: While it has a terrific first act, Skylight ultimately works better as a complex relationship postmortem than as an issues debate about class, privilege and social conscience in a country of chasmic income inequality.

David Cote, Time Out New York: Hare combines the dialectical relish of Shaw, the cozy-sweater Englishness of Rattigan and the seething outrage of Osborne. All of which means that the material is red meat to actors as fearless and deep-diving as Mulligan and Nighy…

 

What Broadway Show in April 2015 Has You Most Excited?

Fourteen shows are opening on Broadway this month. Take this poll to choose the one are most looking forward to. Arranged chronologically by opening date.

For more details on the shows, check out April 2015 New York Theater Openings

April 2015 Openings Broadway, Off and Off Off Broadway

April is the month to binge-watch on Broadway.  Fourteen shows are opening on Broadway within 21 days — set in Paris, London, Bangkok and Moscow; and Cypress, Texas;  Airline Highway, New Orleans; and Beech Creek, Pennsylvania. They represent two-thirds of the entire Broadway Spring season!

And there are more than a dozen additional shows opening Off and Off-Off Broadway. This is more than one show a day; indeed, three plays are opening on April 23rd alone, which (not coincidentally) is the cut-off date this year for Tony eligibility.

Below is a list, organized chronologically by opening date, with descriptions. Each title is linked to a relevant website.

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: Purple. Off Off Broadway: Green.

To check out the entire Spring 2015 season, see my Broadway and Off-Broadway preview theater guides.

April 2

skylight logoSkylight (John Golden Theatre)

On a bitterly cold London evening, schoolteacher Kyra Hollis (Carey Mulligan) receives an unexpected visit from her former lover, Tom Sergeant (Bill Nighy), a successful and charismatic restaurateur whose wife has recently died. As the evening progresses, the two attempt to rekindle their once passionate relationship, only to find themselves locked in a dangerous battle of opposing ideologies and mutual desires.
London critics loved this production of Hare’s 1995 play.

The Undeniable Sound of Right Now (Women’s Project/Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre)

In this play by Laura Eason, “it’s 1992, Chicago, and Hank is struggling to keep his legendary rock club going amid changing times and changing tastes.”

My Name is Rachel Corrie (Culture Project at Lynn RedgraveTheater) 

“On March 16, 2003, Rachel Corrie, a twenty-three-year-old American, was killed in Gaza as she was trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home.” This one-woman play is composed from Rachel’s own writings.

handtogodlogoApril 7

Hand To God (Booth Theatre)

The good children of Cypress, Texas are taught to obey the Bible in order to evade Satan’s hand. But when students at the Christian Puppet Ministry put those teachings into practice, one devout young man’s puppet takes on a shocking personality that no one could have expected.
Producer Kevin McCollum, who brings this play to Broadway following runs at Ensemble Studio Theater and MCC Theater, says it will be changed for Broadway.

Disenchanted (Westside Theatre)

A “not-for-the-kiddies musical” about Snow White “and her posse of disenchanted princesses.”

April 8

Gigi (Neil Simon Theatre)Gigilogo

In this revival of the 1974 musical, the title character is being groomed to join the family business, as a courtesan. (The 1958 movie musical, which introduced the song”Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” won nine Oscars.)

Buzzer (The Public Theater)

A play by Tracey Scott Wilson about a man who grew up in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood but is now a Harvard-educated lawyer, and his interactions with his rich best friend now in recovery, and a white girlfriend.

 The Happy Family (Theatre Row Beckett)

This play by Christopher Latro centers around three couples whose lives are provocatively intertwined with scandalous results, including a mother and step-father of one couple whose relationship eerily mirrors their daughter’s, especially with regard to feelings about the family business, an underground quasi–Ponzi scheme involving high art.

April 9

Wolf Hall Parts 1 & 2 (Winter Garden)

wolfhalllogoA stage adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s prize-winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Through the eyes and ears of Thomas Cromwell, the power, passion and politics surrounding Henry VIII’s relationship with Anne Boleyn are brought to life as two plays.
Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII have been characters in many works before, such as A Man For All Seasons. This two-part play, which originated at the Royal Shakespeare Company,is being touted as an epic theatrical event (akin to Nicholas Nickleby or Angels in America), which you can see on two separate days or in a marathon on the same day.

39 Steps (Union Square Theatre)

The 39 Steps is a spoof of the 1935 Hitchcock film, with only 4 actors portraying more than 150 characters. Three of the four in the cast are from the original Broadway production.

Clinton The Musical (New World Stages)

A “ribald” look at the 42nd president of the United States, featuring three Clintons — Hillary, “WJ” (“the wholesome, intelligent” Bill Clinton), and “Billy” (“the randy, charming” Bill Clinton).

Broken (Shetler Studio Theaters)

Kevin McFadden hasn’t spoken to anyone since he killed 17 people at a shopping mall three weeks ago. But when a prison doctor takes an unexpected interest in his case, Kevin decides to meet with him – revealing a troubled past that unites them both.

April 11

Underland (terraNova at 59E59) 

A play by Alexandra Collier about two girls bored by their small town Australian high school, until a new teacher arrives. “reveals mythic beasts, Chekhovian love triangles and big sky blues, while giving the finger to everything you thought you know about ‘Down Under.'”

April 12

americaninparislogoAn American in Paris (Palace Theatre)

Hoping to start a new life, World War II veteran Jerry Mulligan chooses newly-liberated Paris as the place to make a name for himself as a painter. But Jerry’s life becomes complicated when he meets Lise, a young Parisian shop girl with her own secret – and realizes he is not her only suitor. A classic American film about young souls in Paris is re-imagined for the Broadway stage.
This debuted in Paris in December 2014. The French loved it — and they don’t usually love musicals. Prepare to see the dancing emphasized. Director Wheeldon is a respected and innovative choreographer, Fairchild is a arincipal dancer with the New York City Ballet, and Leanne Cope is a First Artist of The Royal Ballet.

April 13

Iowa (Playwrights Horizons)

A musical play by Jenny Schwartz and Todd Almond about a mother who finds her “soul-mate” on Facebook, and he lives in Iowa. So she uproots her life, and that of her teenage daughter.

April 14

Itshouldabeenyou artworkIt Shoulda Been You (Brooks Atkinson Theatre)

The bride is Jewish. The groom is Catholic. Her mother is a force of nature, his mother is a tempest in a cocktail shaker. And then the bride’s ex-boyfriend shows up.
The members of the cast have great track records: Tyne Daley, Harriet Harris, Sierra Boggess, Lisa Howard, David Burtka, Edward Hibbert, Steve Rosen, Chip Zien, Montego Glover, Josh Grisetti

April 15

findingneverlandlogoFinding Neverland (Lunt Fontanne)

Based on the movie starring Johnny Depp about J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. Barrie’s last play was an abysmal failure and his career is threatened by crippling writers block. But then a chance meeting in a London park with a woman and her spirited young boys provides just the inspiration he needs.
After an unsuccessful London premiere, producer Harvey Weinstein replaced the entire creative team; the new version then premiered at the American Repertory Theater.

April 16

kingandilogoThe King and I (LCT Vivian Beaumont Theater)

In 1860s Siam, Anna, a British schoolteacher, is hired as part of King Mongkut’s drive to modernize his country.
Yes, this is the fifth production on Broadway, but it’s the King and I — one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most lovely, tuneful musicals.

April 19

Fun Home (Circle in the Square)

FunHomeLogoWhen her father dies unexpectedly, graphic novelist Alison dives deep into her past to tell the story of the volatile, brilliant, one-of-a-kind man whose temperament and secrets defined her family and her life. Moving between past and present, Alison relives her unique childhood playing at the family’s Bechdel Funeral Home, her growing understanding of her own sexuality and the looming, unanswerable questions about her father’s hidden desires.
loved the production of this musical at the Public Theater, and the changes for Broadway reportedly involve recasting some of the children and adjusting to the theater-in-the-round of the Circle in the Square theater.

The Unexpected Guest ( TBTB at Theatre Row – Clurman)

“In a dark and foggy evening, a lost stranger seeks refuge in a nearby country
estate only to discover that he has stumbled onto the scene of a murder.” Theater Breaking Through Barriers (TBTB) launches its 2015 season with a revival of Agatha Christie’s  1958 thriller

April 20

livingonlovelogoLiving On Love (Longacre Theatre)

American opera star, soprano Renée Fleming makes her Broadway debut as a celebrated diva who deals with her philandering conductor husband’s transgressions by taking on a young lover of her own. The comedy is a loose adaptation of Garson Kanin’s 1985 play “Peccadillo” with its setting moved back to the 1950s.

April 21

Doctor Zhivago (Broadway Theatre)

drzhivagologoA young physician and his beautiful mistress get swept up in the danger and drama of the Bolshevik Revolution in this epic musical based on the classic novel by Nobel Prize author Boris Pasternak.

This musical has been bouncing around the world (Australia, Korea) since it premiered at La Jolla Playhouse in 2006 to a mixed response. Producers say they’ve changed it substantially.

 April 22

somethingrottenlogoSomething Rotten (St. James)

it’s the 1590s, and brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom are desperate to write a hit play but are stuck in the shadow of that Renaissance rockstar known as ‘The Bard.’ When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theater involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, Nick and Nigel set out to write the world’s very first musical.

Although this is written by three Broadway neophytes, it stars Brian d’Arcy James and Christian Borle, and it is directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin)

April 23

Airline Highway (Samuel J. Friedman)

airlinehighwaylogo2In the parking lot of The Hummingbird, a once-glamorous motel on New Orleans’ infamous Airline Highway, a group of friends gather – strippers, hustlers, and philosophers – to celebrate the life of Miss Ruby, an iconic burlesque performer who has requested a funeral before she dies.
This play marks the Broadway debut of Lisa D’Amour, who demonstrated her keen insight into the economic crumbling class and her for the eerie with Detroit.

The Visit (Lyceum Theatre)

thevisitlogoThe oft-widowed Claire Zachanassian (Chita Rivera), and richest woman in the world, returns to the hardship-stricken town of her birth.  The locals pray that her wealth will bring them a new lease on life, but her arrival carries a dreadful price.

The Belle of Belfast (Irish Repertory Theatre at DR2)

“In 1985 Belfast, fiery and profane Anne Malloy… turns to her parish priest, Father Reilly, seeking the comforts of the flesh in addition to the comforts of the soul.”

April 26

Grounded (The Public Theater)

Anne Hathaway stars in George Brant’s play about an ace fighter pilot reassigned to a remote-controlled drone, facing “twelve-hour shifts hunting targets from her Air Force trailer followed by twelve in the suburbs with her family.”

Tis Pity She’s A Whore (Red Bull Theater at The Duke)

“What if Romeo and Juliet were brother and sister? Find out in this…bloodiest and sexiest of all Jacobean tragedies.” The 17th century play was written by John Ford

Nirbhaya (Lynn Redgrave Theatre)

A play by Yael Farber about gender-based violence. “On the night of December 16th 2012 a young woman and her male friend boarded a bus in urban Delhi heading for home. What followed, changed the lives of these two people and countless others forever.”

On The Twentieth Century Review: Kristin Chenoweth, Peter Gallagher On Glorious, Hilarious Train Trip

Chenoweth, Gallagher 350Train travel is hot again, at least at the (ironically named) American Airlines Theater, where “On The Twentieth Century” turns out to be one of the funniest and most entertaining shows on Broadway – something not everybody would have predicted for this revival of a 37-year-old musical comedy adaptation of an 83-year-old play about two people who take a train from Chicago to New York.

But this is no ordinary Amtrak, and the people on board are far from pedestrian commuters. They are an electrifying mix of the glamorous and the hilarious, their antics piling up at perilous speed.
We are on the Twentieth Century Limited, the ultimate in gleaming Art Deco luxury train travel, thanks to some spectacular work by set designer David Rockwell, who goes full steam ahead with the train motif right from the get-go: Even during the overture, in front of a metallic-looking curtain stamped with a train design, puffs of smoke noisily gasp into the air as if from a locomotive.
On board is the dazzling, ill-tempered movie star Lily Garland, portrayed by the dazzling Kristin Chenoweth, who here shows off not just her golden pipes but some superb comic chops. Lily is being pursued by the magnetic, sleazy Broadway impresario Oscar Jaffe — portrayed by the magnetic Broadway performer Peter Gallagher. Their characters are both self-dramatizing narcissists, and they play them grand, broad and bickering. When he twirls his mustache, it’s not a villainous gesture; it’s a vain one: He’s looking in the mirror of his train compartment, prettying himself for the planned seduction. Oscar is the man who discovered Lily, when she was a dowdy piano accompanist named Mildred Plotka (with a New York accent reminiscent of early Barbra Streisand), and he turned her into a star. They became lovers; now they’re haters. She wants nothing to do with him. But he needs her for his next show, after a string of flops has put him hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt. He has 16 hours (the duration of the train trip) to win her back, come up with a show for her to star in, and get it funded.

20thcenturyfilmThis thin and improbable premise worked for the anarchic comic talents of Ben Hecht and Charlie MacArthur, who wrote the 1932 Broadway play Twentieth Century and then adapted it into the quintessential 1934 screwball comedy starring John Barrymore and Carole Lombard. And it works as well for the musical adaptation by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, who partnered with composer Cy Coleman. Coleman may have created scores with more memorable melodies (in “Sweet Charity,” and “The Life”), but “On The Twentieth Century” (largely mock operetta and train rhythms, which won the 1978 Tony for best original score) is full of songs that function as deft comic numbers.

Director Scott Ellis and choreographer Warren Carlyle make the most of both the slapstick mayhem and the razzmatazz, sometimes simultaneously. In “Veronique,” for example,  we’re offered a flashback of Lily in one of her Oscar Jaffe-created starring vehicles, in front of a backdrop of the Arc de Triomphe, which manages to be both satiric and delightful in its excess.

The smartest move the director makes is in choosing the cast, which includes numerous stand-outs among its two dozen members.

Andy Karl, recently the star of Rocky, shines here as Lily’s new boyfriend Bruce Granit , a self-involved movie actor who likes to paste 8 by 10 glossies of himself around her train compartment, and (using his Rocky workouts to good measure), exercises using Lily as his dumbbell.

Mary Louise Wilson is delectable as Letitia Peabody Primrose, a crackpot religious fanatic who’s been surreptitiously pasting “Repent” stickers everywhere on board, especially fellow passengers’ backsides. If Miss Primrose seems at first just an exercise in comic digression, she winds up figuring prominently in the off-the-wall plot in ways I won’t reveal here. She is also the vehicle by which the show goes positively Salvador Dali in its treatment of trains during the song “She’s a Nut” (See some of the photographs below.)

The four redcap porters – members of the ensemble Rick Faugno, Richard Riaz Yoder, Phillip Attmore and Drew King – steal the show several times with their carefully coordinated song-and-dance routines, such as the novelty number “Life Is Like a Train,” whose lyrics demonstrate that life is not like a train, but whose train-like dance moves show otherwise.

But kudos must go especially to Peter Gallagher and Kristin Chenoweth, and not just because they provide the central spark that ignites the comic chaos. The opening of “On the Twentieth Century” was delayed a few days because a sinus infection forced Gallagher to miss performances. Due to an injury, Chenoweth has been cracking her jokes while nursing a cracked rib. Together, they prove themselves old-fashioned troupers in this old-fashioned entertainment – turning “old-fashioned” into a compliment.

 

On The Twentieth Century

Roundabout’s American Airlines Theater

Book and lyrics by: Betty Comden and Adolph Green, music by Cy Coleman
Based on plays by Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur and Bruce Millholland
Set Design by David Rockwell; Costume Design by William Ivey Long; Lighting Design by Donald Holder; Sound Design by Jon Weston; Hair and Wig Design by Paul Huntley; Makeup Design by Anne Ford Coates;
Cast: Kristin Chenoweth (Lily Garland), Peter Gallagher (Oscar Jaffee), Andy Karl (Bruce Granit), Mark Linn-Baker (Oliver Webb),Michael McGrath (Owen O’Malley), Mary Louise Wilson (Letitia Primrose), Phillip Attmore,Justin Bowen, Preston Truman Boyd, Paula Leggett Chase, Ben Crawford, Rick Faugno, Jenifer Foote, Bahiyah Hibah, Drew King, Analisa Leaming, Kevin Ligon, Erica Mansfield, James Moye, Linda Mugleston, Mamie Parris, Andy Taylor, Jim Walton, Richard Riaz Yoder
Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission
Tickets: $67 to $147
On The Twentieth Century is scheduled to run through July 5, 2015. I’ll be surprised if it isn’t extended.

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