Oscar Picks, Jake Gyllenhaal Licks, Tony Danza Kicks. Sensitivity or Censorship? Week in New York Theater

Here’s a surprise — recent research indicates that theatergoers don’t mind spoilers at all; they WANT to know what the play is about before they see it. (Scroll to January 15) That may prove a challenge for one of the two Broadway plays that opened this past week,

Constellations might best be described as “cosmic.” The other, Honeymoon in Vegas, is much easier to explain, and to enjoy. (See both reviews below.)

There were reasons  to be both optimistic and pessimistic about the arts this week, in New York in particular and the country — and the world — as a whole.

Week in New York Theater January 12-18

Monday, January 12, 2015

A new Tony Award will be given annually to a theater teacher who has made a “monumental impact” on the lives of students

Seven-time Broadway veteran James Barbour to be latest Phantom on Broadway, starting February 9

How to make theater artists essential: 1 Address issues of the day. 2 Develop local talent. 3 Be inclusive

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Nadia Parvez Manzoor  Burq Off 5


Can A Play Explain The Muslim Diaspora? Nadia Manzoor’s My review of Burq Off

“France’s most wanted woman went from bikini babe to burka-clad jihadi fighter,” a British newspaper proclaimed after the terrorist attacks.

Burq Off, an autobiographical play, documents a journey more or less in the opposite direction—from burqa to bikini. Written and performed by Nadia Parvez Manzoor, who portrays 21 characters,  the play never depicts the main character, Nadia, as a jihadi fighter, and her family doesn’t require her to wear a burqa all the time. But Nadia does wear one on a family trip to Mecca, prompting her father to remark in a tone of admiration (not irony): “You look very beautiful when you are all covered up.”

Full review of Burq Off


The majority who attend arts events (73%) go to socialize; the plurality who DON”t attend (47%) cite time.

Reasons 31 million didn’t attend an arts event:

Time (47%)

Cost (38%)

Access (37%)

No One To Go With (22%, especially older adults)

Artists are broke in worldwide

Constellations Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

My review of Constellations

Constellations” is a kind of stage version of the film “Groundhog Day” except instead of Bill Murray endlessly repeating a single day, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson – both making their Broadway debuts — endlessly repeat a few moments throughout their relationship. The first moment is when Roland and Marianne meet for the first time and each tries to lick the tip of his or her own elbow. This, you see, is because, as Marianne points out, it’s impossible to lick the tips of your elbows – if you could do this, you would be immortal.

This is an intriguing idea, one of many in this play.

Actually, it isn’t.

Full review of Constellations

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Gigi with  Vanessa Hudgens, Vicki Clark and Corey Cott  opens April 8 in Neil Simon Theater.

Hamilton extends for second time: It begins Jan 20, opens Feb 17, now runs through April 5 at the Public Theater.

Three modern operas to be co-produced by Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic, including one based on Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” http://youtu.be/sYl_sNcp8Qc   Censorshiporsensitivity  Cultural Sensitivity or Censorship? Three Tales, Many Questions In epithet-full angry rant, The Craptacular  bloggers catalogue recent examples of sexism on Broadway and in theater coverage One controversial example — hiring as Phantom James Barbour, who served jail time for sex with a 15-yr-old fan.

from Christopher Shinn's play Teddy Ferrara
from Christopher Shinn’s play Teddy Ferrara

Long, interesting Q&A with playwright Christopher Shinn: “The American ideology is one of progress, happy talk, but I think its important sometimes to be forthright about one’s pessimism in terms of where we are, and where we’re headed.” At the time of the conversation, interviewer Stephen Bottoms points out, Shinn in June, 2013 provided “his email contact list with an update on his ongoing battle with Ewing’s sarcoma,a rare and particularly virulent form of cancer” that “is almost always fatal.”

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Best Actor and Best Actress Oscar nominees 2015
Best Actor and Best Actress Oscar nominees 2015

2015 Oscar nominations

New Tony Award eligibility rulings. For example: Erin Davie and Emily Padgett each considered eligible for best lead actress.

Audience Engagement – a Twitter chat using hashtags #Trplply #newchat


“Please contact us at least 24 hours prior to start of performance if you have an aversion to tight spaces…or being set on fire”

Rob McClure at the poker table
Rob McClure at the poker table

My review of Honeymoon in Vegas


TonyDanzaHoneymooninVegas1When mid-way through “Honeymoon in Vegas,” Tony Danza is handed a ukulele and serenades Brynn O’Malley, there’s something so charming about him, in a low-key way — although he plays a thuggish, calculating card-shark — that you can almost believe he’d be able to snatch a younger woman from her fiancé on the day they had planned to get married.

That seduction scene could stand in for the whole musical, which is based on a 1992 movie that is implausible, dopey; in places funny and clever; in other places Rat Pack smarmy. Yet, thanks to an enjoyable cast, jazzy score by Jason Robert Brown, and lively choreography by Denis Jones, “Honeymoon in Vegas” the Broadway musical winds up seducing the audience too….The opener gives a taste of the old-fashioned Broadway confection to come at its best – not an ounce of protein for the brain, but do you really expect nutrition in a dessert?

Full review of Honeymoon in Vegas

Friday, January 16, 2015

Jeremy Jordan and Kate Baldwin
Jeremy Jordan and Kate Baldwin

Sondheim and Prince



Why I Believe New York’s Art Scene is Doomed

“The white-hot real estate market burning through affordable cultural habitat is no longer a crisis, it’s a conclusion,” said Robert Elmes, the director of Galapagos Art Space, which is moving from New York to Detroit.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

New York City’s new identification cards — IDNYC cards —  include free one-year members to the Public Theater, Lincoln Center, City Center, and Queens Theater in the Park, plus 29 other cultural institutions. They’re so hot that one must make an appointment now to get them.



James Earl Jones birthday

Jumping into the game: Fox to do live TV version of Grease, July, 2016,starring Julianne Hough and Gigi’s Vanessa Hudgens

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Motown: Valisia LeKae portrayed Diana Ross in Motown, in dozens of wigs and dresses. In the scene that recreates Diana’s first solo concert, apart from the Supremes, LeKae invited members of the audience to come sing “Reach Out and Touch” with her, and a magical fusion took place: Diana Ross was there but so was LeKae, graceful and gracious, funny and charismatic.
Motown: Valisia LeKae portrayed Diana Ross in Motown, in dozens of wigs and dresses. In the scene that recreates Diana’s first solo concert, apart from the Supremes, LeKae invited members of the audience to come sing “Reach Out and Touch” with her, and a magical fusion took place: Diana Ross was there but so was LeKae, graceful and gracious, funny and charismatic.

Closing today on Broadway: Motown

Since my review  I’ve become more attached, for 2 reasons… 1. I had the pleasure of interviewing Valisia LeKae (Diana Ross) then seeing how elegantly she battled cancer 2. My cousin Brucie, a multi-talented musician, loved this show, the last Broadway musical he saw before he died.

Author: New York Theater

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

Leave a Reply