Celebrating: The Best of 2014, Into The Woods, Broadway Movies. Week in New York Theater


What if Into The Woods had been directed by Vincente Minnelli for MGM around, say, 1949.

“The theater is one of the few places left in the bright and noisy world where we sit in the quiet dark together, to be awake,” playwright Sarah Ruhl writes in 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time To Write…”, one of Ruhl’s many Tweetable sayings about theater.

Ruhl tells us she wrote her book because, having just given birth to twins, she didn’t have time for a full-length play. And, as one year transitions into the next, time is much on our minds. It surely helps to look back before we leap ahead. That’s why below you’ll find lists of the top 10 shows of 2014 most often found on critics’ top 10 lists; the top theater stories of 2014, and some of the weirdest; the top 10 Broadway debuts in 2014;  the best movies about Broadway and some of the worst; the theater that passes the Bechdel Test. These last lists are not definitive — indeed they sparked some argument.

The Week in New York Theater, December 22 – 28



Opera soprano Renee Fleming makes her Broadway debut in Living on Love, about a diva battling with her maestro husband, using a boytoy as a weapon. Opens April 20th at the Longacre. (Pictured is a scene from the production at the Williamstown Theater Festival)

Artistic Directors from throughout the country protest the dismissal of Ari Roth from Theater J

After Pippin closes, current Leading Player Carly Hughes becomes Velma in Chicago, Feb 2-March 29

Sting joins 10 others in “54 Sings James Taylor” Dec 29th at 54 Below



Does God Exist on Stage? Theater and Religion.

There are 10,000 religions in the world right now, although half the world’s population is “Abrahamic” (“either Jewish or Christian or Islamic”), Baba Brinkman tells us in The Rap Guide to Religion. His solo show at the SoHo Playhouse is one of a number of current works of theater in New York that touch upon religion, although with very different approaches: Some ridicule organized religion; others reflect specific doctrines, or try to reproduce the awe felt by believers; still others focus on characters engaged in some kind of internal struggle.

…how religion plays out publicly on New York stages.

complete article of “Does God Exist on Stage?”.

Supplement: Religion on Broadway: Video excerpt from a dozen plays and musicals.


#BroadwayWeek returns January 20 to February 5, 2015: 2-for-1 tickets go on sale January 9th.

Director Lavina Jadhwani doesn’t think color-blind casting exists. But color- #conscious casting can work


Does theater pass the Bechdel Test?

Playwright Sean Douglass brought up the question. The Bechdel Test is named after Alison Bechdel, the cartoonist and author whose book Fun Home has been made into a musical that will open on Broadway in the Spring. The Bechdel Test requires that a show includes two women characters talking to one another about something other than a man.

Roberta Colindrez and Alexandra Socha
Roberta Colindrez and Alexandra Socha

As it turns out, Fun Home does pass the Bechdel Test — the mother and the daughter talk to one another (although it’s often about the husband/father), but the daughter and her female classmate (later her lover) don’t only talk about men.


Karen Pittman, cast member of Disgraced, (second from right in picture above), joined the conversation, pointing out Ayad Akhtar’s play passed with flying colors. The two female characters “talk about wine, banana pudding, crack, books, Islam, the veil, Constitution, cooking, art and cheating. Never about men.”

Many shows on Broadway seem to pass the test

I started to regret getting this started.

Circle of Life Lion King1

The Women by Clare Booth Luce debuted on Broadway in 1936, and has been revived twice. The 1939 movie starred (pictured) Joan Fontaine, Paulette Goddard, Mary Boland, Rosalind Russell and Norma Shearer.
The Women by Clare Booth Luce debuted on Broadway in 1936, and has been revived twice. The 1939 movie starred (pictured) Joan Fontaine, Paulette Goddard, Mary Boland, Rosalind Russell and Norma Shearer.

There is a problem in trying to measure diversity, writes Michael Rushton.

“My instinct is always to take a risk…And so I hope to have the courage to keep doing that.” – Sting to Charlie Rose.


Billy Magnussen and Chris Pine
Billy Magnussen and Chris Pine

My review of the film Into The Woods

ITW16bThe long-awaited, visually sumptuous film version of “Into The Woods” is likely to please theatergoers who are already fans of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s clever 1987 musical mashup of our culture’s best-known fairy tales, even if they have some quibbles; it will surely thrill the fans of the many stars that populate the film, a cast so uniformly first rate that Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp don’t especially stand out. We’ll have to see whether the average moviegoers, fairy tale enthusiasts, and parents looking for family entertainment will just scratch their heads.
It wouldn’t be the first time “Into The Woods” has elicited that reaction….

It would be hard to go wrong once you’ve cast Tracey Ullman as Jack’s mother, Christine Baranski as Cinderella’s stepmother and Meryl Streep as the witch, and they are just as funny and good as we expect them to be. But both Chris Pine (best known for Star Trek roles) as Cinderella’s Prince Charming and Billy Magnussen as Rapunzel’s Prince come as comic revelations

Full review plus two dozen photographs and three videos

25 books that changed history (King James Bible,Torah,Qur’an, Anne Frank Diary,1984, etc)

Did any plays change history?

Jeff L. Walker ‏Ibsen’s A DOLL’S HOUSE made a ripple. The surviving Greek tragedies were\are huge.

Kyle A. Thomas ‏ I’d say Ubi Roi, at the least, drove culture creators beyond 19th century

Ken Dukes ‏ RUR

Ilana Brownstein: Marriage of Figaro by Beaumarchais, widely thought to have helped spark French Revolution


Sean Patrick Doyle: Just back from the musical theater equivalent of Midnight Mass – a late showing of Into The Woods

Into The Woods grossed an impressive $15.1 million Christmas Day, from 2,440 theaters ($3 million less than Les Miserables Christmas 2012)



Theater most frequently on “best of 2014” critic lists as compiled by me

Top Broadway debuts in 2014, listed alphabetically:

Bryan Cranston

Kieran Culkin

Sarah Greene

Cush Jumbo

Ramin Karimloo

Chris O’Dowd

Margo Seibert

Alex Sharp

Micha Stock

Saul Williams




Top (and Weirdest) Stories of 2014


I saw Birdman. Interesting movie. Did it have anything to do with Broadway? What’s the best feature film ever done ABOUT Broadway?

Peter Marks: All About Eve

Glenn Sumi: Hepburn double bill – Stage Door and Morning Glory


Joan Dixon: I love the Cassavetes film Opening Night

Pippin Parker: Aaaand we’re done. Tho Yankee Doodle Dandy is quite good. Sweet Smell Of Sucess, in a way. Nod to Rosemary’sBaby

David Low:  Not necessarily the best but Me and Orson Welles is quite delightful.

Benjamin Dreyer: Most of them are of a piece, but 42nd Street best illuminates theater angst, I’d say.

Robert Falls: Can’t recall one, although I truly love the insanity of STAYIN’ ALIVE.

Jonathan Mandell: Stayin Alive gets my vote for the worst movie about Broadway I’ve ever seen

John Bentz:  My vote is the horrible “A Chorus Line” adaptation.



Although she’s not on Twitter) Sarah Ruhl Tweets on Theater


Theater is at its roots some very brave people mutually consenting to a make-believe world, with nothing but language to rest on.



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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