New Les Miz. New Phantom. Aladdin Alights. Sondheim Favs. The Week in New York Theater

Adam Jacobs in Aladdin, Ramin Karimloo in Les Miserables, Stephen Sondheim at 84, Norm Lewis to be the Phantom
Adam Jacobs in Aladdin, Ramin Karimloo in Les Miserables, Stephen Sondheim at 84, Norm Lewis to be the Phantom

Broadway’s big guns fired the first volley this week of what will be a month-long assault — 13 more shows are opening within the next month, ending the 2013-14 Broadway season.

Below are my reviews of Aladdin and Les Miserables, news about the Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King and After Midnight, Ken Ludwig on comedy, Idina Menzel and Zach Braff on their love of theater, a celebration of Sondheim, and interviews with some Off-Off Broadway stars who have turned their public humiliations into public art.

The Week in New York Theater

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Archdiocese of NY will soon open Sheen Center in Soho with two theaters “to showcase Christian humanism”

Eighth annual One Minute Play Festival with plays by Rajiv Joesph, Neil Labute, Greg Kotis, Mike Daisey, April 2 only at Primary Stages. (My Q and A with artistic director Dominic Andrea about previous festival.)

Night with Janis Joplin, A Lyceum Theatre

Ended on Broadway in February, now A Night with Janis with Mary Bridget Davies will reopen April 10 at Gramercy Theatre

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

CircleofLifefromLionKingHow The Lion King became top-grossing Broadway show of 2013 yet kept top ticket prices at one-half that of their rivals: “Dynamic pricing.”

Difference between the average theatergoer who doesn’t like a show and a critic? The theatergoer blames himself (“I was tired”)


Q and A with Mike Albo about his one-man show “The Junket,” currently at the Lynn Redgrave Theater, about the real-life scandal/personal humiliation that inspired him.


Virgil Lil O Gadson and Katrine Plantadit
Virgil Lil O Gadson and Katrine Plantadit

Tonight through March 30:  Toni Braxton returns to Broadway and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds debuts as guest stars in After Midnight


If your last name is Jones,you can win a pair of tickets to opening night April 6 of Realistic Joneses

Original cast recording of Rocky out May 27 on #UMe label of big-time United Music Group.

Gypsy had her say; now it’s Mama Rose’s turn. Rose Hovick is subject of new bio by Carolyn Quinn and, separately, an HBO film by Adam Shankman.


Diner, a musical based on 1982 film which was to mark Sheryl Crow’s Broadway debut, will open in December at the Signature Theater in Arlington, Virginia.

Actor in A Bad Mood

Beautiful 1a

Beautiful Cast Recording: Hear Jessie Mueller sing Will You Love Me Tomorrow



Pulitzer Fest, star-filled readings of Pulitzer-won plays — Ruined, Our Tow, I Am My Own Wife, etc — April 7-13 Labrynth Theater

New works by nine playwrights including John Guare, Neil LaBute, and Caridad Svich in Nuyorican Poets theater festival, April 11 to 13.

Video ad for The Mysteries. 48 playwrights tell stories from the Bible. Starts at The Flea Theater April 3.

Gene Feist, founder of Roundabout Theater Company in the basement of a supermarket, dies at 91. It began in a supermarket basement

How much difference does a play’s title mean?

Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was initially called A Place of Stone, while Williams tried The Moth, The Poker Night, The Primary Colors and Blanche’s Chair in the Moon before settling on A Streetcar Named Desire. Similarly, The Glass Menagerie was at other points intended to go before the public as If It Breathes, It Breaks! or Portrait of a Girl in Glass.Sweet Bird of Youth had no less the four earlier alternatives.”

Original cast recording of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is unique,astonishing, but not definitive, says Terry Teachout


Desperate Theater With Blondie and Madonna: Q and A with Peter Michael Marino 


Norman Lewis will play the Phantom in the Phantom of the Opera starting May 12th. Sierra Boggess will return as Christine Daae.


Fantasia returns to ‪After Midnight May 13-June 8.


Winners of the lottery for Newsies will get in FREE from March 23-29, to celebrate its second anniversary on Broadway.

Philip Bosco and Carol Burnett in Moon Over Buffalo by Ken Ludwig
Philip Bosco and Carol Burnett in Moon Over Buffalo by Ken Ludwig


What is comedy and why isn’t it more of it produced?

Playwright Ken Ludwig ( Lend Me A Tenor, Moon over Buffalo, etc.) was the host for the weekly Twitter chat ( Complete transcript)



I think comedy is defined by”happy endings.” Even the heaviest tragedies can have loads of laughMartin McDonagh (whose play The Cripple of Inishmaan is opening on Broadway this season) is a perfect example. They are not comedies in any traditional sense.  They have hearts of darkness. Laughter and comedy as a form are not the same thing. I think you write comedy naturally if you have a kind of personal comic spirit. I also think the whole idea of comedy changes from century to century. Comedy is serious business. It simply has a different spirit.


My review of Aladdin

In Aladdin, the new Disney musical on Broadway, the genie grants theatergoers the first of their wishes – to be entertained. The genie is James Monroe Iglehart, and he is the one who provides the bulk of the entertainment… Every number over which he presides – nearly every moment he is on stage –  answers the question that fans of the 1992 film Aladdin might have wondered about: How would Disney be able to translate to the stage the protean cartoon character of genie voiced by Robin Williams at his peak? The answer is James Monroe Iglehart, and the answer satisfies.

An hour elapses, however, between Iglehart’s opening number and his next appearance in this two-hour show. If there is much that dazzles in his absence – though perhaps not quite as brightly – not all happening on the stage of the New Amsterdam Theater is everything that every theatergoer might wish for.

Complete review of Aladdin



It was supposed to begin March 27, but the ‪Rockettes tribute to NYC, ‪Heart And Lights at ‪Radio City Music Hall, has suddenly been put off until 2015!  Madison Square Garden Company CEO James Dolan love the Rockettes and the sets, but not the plot nor the songs.
Everything about that last-minute nix is fascinating: the sports guy as drama critic, 100,000 ticket holders left in lurch etc


Debuting on Broadway in ‪Bullets Over Broadway, ‪Zach Braff writes of how as a “melancholic child” he discovered theater ‪ A Broadway musical like the one he’s in is “a ballet of moving parts as intricate as a pocket watch.”

A (too long) article about “short-burst offerings” and then a list of currently playing brief plays etc. ‪

One can decry “fast art” trend as one does fast food, but aren’t you relieved when a show turns out to be shorter than expected?

Robin Riegelhaupt ‏‪@reviewingdrama‬  Only if it’s terrible. If it’s a great show, I want it to keep going. Ex: I could have watched three more hrs of Jerusalem.

Daniel John Kelley ‏‪@funwithiago‬  Better: Why do we even need a show at all? Why we don’t just put up a sign for a show and then people can come in and leave.

Rocky Conversation

Jennifer Mudge ‏‪@JenniferMudge‬ I said “fishiebrains & birdies” last night instead of “fishes & birdbrains” ‪#ActorProblems

An improvement!

Idina Menzel on the cover of Billboard
“Broadway is where I’ve always felt most at home”

Meg Haas ‏‪@meggh11‬
I have never been happier to be an Idina Menzel fan, or as the cool kids have said for years now “Fanzel


“Two of the hardest words in the language to rhyme are life and love.”
Happy 84th birthday, Stephen Sondheim. Here’s to your life!

Poll: Your favorite Broadway show with which Sondheim was involved? (There are MANY)



RIP James Rebhorn, character actor on stage (7-time Broadway veteran) and screen (Claire Danes pop on Homeland), age 65 ‪

John Bentz ‏‪@JBentz‬  Rebhorn was also great in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” as Jude Law’s father.

William J Kenton ‏‪@w_jameskenton‬  Rebhorn seemed to always play riveting, “Authority characters” – bosses, administrators, suits. The establishment’s gray wall

Ramin Karimloo
Ramin Karimloo

My review of Les Miserables

When the grim-faced actors in the revival of “Les Miserables” man the barricades and wave the red flag at the Imperial, to my surprise, I didn’t just see red.
For this third production on Broadway, the producers and directors have made choices that have won me over…mostly. It’s hard to call this Les Miz low-key exactly, but it is less of an assault on the senses…. Above all, what makes this “Les Miserables” appealing even to those of us who retain reservations about the show’s conception, are the performances. This is a cast full of familiar faces shown in a new light, and talent new to Broadway that will bowl you over.

Complete review (and 19 photographs) of Les Miserables

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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