Gypsy No More. West Side Story Up The Wazoo. Jeremy Jordan Back on Broadway. The Week in NY Theater

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In New York theater this week, below: Reviews, including the first Yiddish-language production of  Fiddler on the Roof in the United States,and the first couple of shows from the 2018 New York Musical Festival. News about West Side Story, Jeremy Jordan, innovative choreographers. Bobby Steggert on quitting acting. Theater moves by medical students and the DC City Council.  And what Actors Equity has done about the Gypsy Robe Ceremony.
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A Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish Review: As directed by Joel Grey, A shtik naches

Those who doubted that a Yiddish-language production of “A Fiddler on the Roof,” directed by Joel Grey,  would turn out to be a great joy (“a shtik naches) might react to Jackie Hoffman’s performance as a revelation.

Hoffman, a resident funny lady on Broadway (Hairspray, Xanadu, The Addams Family, On The Town and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as well as TV and Twitter,  portrays Yente, the yente(gossip) and shadkhnte (matchmaker) in the fictitious shtetl (town) of Anatevke. In the opening number of the show, “Tradition,” (now “Traditsye”), she sidles up to a bearded man (Kirk Geritano)  and says in Yiddish (with surtitles in English and Russian):

Avrom, I have a golden match [ “a goldenem shidukh”] for your son, a girl, a diamond.

Who is she?

Rokhl, the shoemaker’s daughter.

Rokhl? She can barely see. She’s almost entirely blind.

The truth is, Avrom, what is there to see in your son? The way she sees, and the way he looks— it’s a match from heaven.

And right there, Jackie Hoffman reveals that Yiddish is surely the source of her comic gifts; the shrug and the whine and the wisecrack are embedded in the rhythm of the language.

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged and read the caption.

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NYMF Review Interstate: Trans Man and Lesbian Asian Musical Duo in a Road Trip Musical

“Interstate,” an entry at the New York Musical Festival, is about two New Yorkers who form a band called Queer Malady and tour the country: Dash is a Chinese-born trans man and spoken word poet; Adrian is an Asian-American lesbian who is a gifted composer and guitarist. The show is written by Kit Yan, a Chinese-born trans man and spoken word poet, and Melissa Li, an Asian-American lesbian who is a composer and guitarist; the two formed a band called Good Asian Drivers and toured the country.

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Broadway Photographs from the Museum of the City of New York

The Theater Collection at the Museum of the City of New York contains over 190,000 objects that document theatrical performance in New York City from 1785 on. These include more than 30,000 photographs, documenting over 5,000 Broadway production, which are currently in the process of being put online. Below is a sample, including Sarah Bernhardt in an 1880 production of “Adrienne Lecouvreur,” and “New Faces of 1952” featuring Eartha Kitt and Paul Lynde, as well as Lunt and Fontanne, Katharine Cornell and Basil Rathbone, Fanny Brice and a Fanny Brice female impersonator, Paul Robeson, Patty Duke, Celeste Holm, Lillian Gish, Tallulah Bankhead, Glenda Jackson. Click on any picture to see it enlarged, and read the caption.

NYMF Review Pedro Pan: A Cuban Refugee Child Adjusts to NYC

The title of this musical, a selection of the 2018 New York Musical Festival, comes from Operacion Pedro Pan (Operation Peter Pan),  which between 1960 and 1962 brought more than 14,000 children from Cuba to the United States without their parents.

“Pedro Pan” is the (fictitious) story of one such Cuban kid, Pedro, and his adjustment to life in New York City, living with his aunt, who herself left Havana just two years earlier.

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The Saintliness of Margery Kempe Review: Revisiting A 15th Century Feminist Con Artist

In her actual medieval memoir, which was rediscovered in the 1930s, Margery Kempe seems almost as extreme in her devotion as her 15thcentury contemporary, Joan of Arc. The English woman tells us in her book of her weeping and shrieking for Jesus, of her spiritual visions and holy visitations, of her decision to overcome temptation and turn her marriage chaste, and of her pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Rome.

But in the current revival at the Duke on 42nd Street of John Wulp’s 1958 play “The Saintliness of Margery Kempe,” which was inspired by Kempe’s 600-year-old book, the character of Margery Kempe seems like something of a con artist. And the tone of the play, as directed by Austin Pendleton, registers somewhere between a picaresque like “Candide” and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.”

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Mary Page Marlowe by Tracy Letts: How Six Actresses Portray One Ordinary Woman

Six actresses — from Tatiany Maslany of “Orphan Black” making her New York stage debut, to Tony winner Blair Brown — play the title character in “Mary Page Marlowe.” The play by Tracy Letts, opening tonight at Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theater, presents 11 moments over 70 years in the life of an ordinary woman.

As I explain in an article on “Mary Page Marlowe” in TDF Stages, the play presented director Lila Neugebauer with a challenge: how to get the audience to accept six actresses as one character. A dialect coach helped, but one unusual move was encouraging all the Mary Pages to sit in on one another’s rehearsals and share feedback. “You were allowed to comment on other people’s scenes because it was actually your character as well,” says Susan Pourfar, who portrays Mary Page at ages 40 and 44. “Together, as a community, we created the backstory of this woman.”

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus showing the different Mary Page Marlowes. Not shown: Mary Page Marlowe as an infant (portrayed by a baby doll.)

Gone Missing Review: Exploring Loss, Musically, Comically, and in Tribute to Michael Friedman

One of the real people that The Civilians theater troupe interviewed to put together “Gone Missing” resists the assignment, which is to tell them stories about objects she has lost, such as car keys or rings. “You don’t want to hear about people?” the cast member portraying the old woman asks in the Encores Off-Center revival of the 2003 show. “Well, sorry honey, after you’ve lost as many people as I have, you don’t care about material things.”

Her comment has a particular resonance in this production, which is being presented only twice at City Center, once last night and one tonight. “Gone Missing” is 75 minutes of stories and songs about losing things and even a mock radio interview with a loss expert.  But the nine songs  were written by Michael Friedman. Friedman was the newly appointed director of Off-Center Encores concert series when he died last year, from AIDS, at the age of 41. It’s easy to see “Gone Missing” as a tribute concert.

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Broadway Poll: Favorite Fall 2018 Show

Choose the show that you are most looking forward to. The list below is for shows that have opening dates on Broadway between now and the end of December 2018, as of this writing, and they are listed chronologically by opening date.

For more information about any of the shows, read my Broadway 2018-2019 Season Preview Guide

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Lin-Manuel Miranda Bests a Snob at My Fair Lady: A Mini-Play About Theater Etiquette

“I had one of the all time best conversations with a Condescending Theatergoer Who Sat In Front Of Me at intermission of My Fair Lady,” Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote in the first of a series of Tweets. “Here’s a transcript:”

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