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The Best and The Worst of 2015. Holiday Week in New York Theater

There IS time left to do holiday shopping for theater lovers. There are also plenty of shows to see this holiday week — not just holiday shows, although plenty of those.

With the last Broadway show of the year having just opened, it’s time for both my top 10 theater of 2015, and my Broadway Bottom 10.

10 Favorite Stage Performances of 2015

Week in New York Theater Reviews

Color Purple 11 Jennifer Hudson and Cynthia Erivo

The Color Purple

Near the end of The Color Purple, Cynthia Erivo, as Celie, sings “I don’t need you to love me….I’m beautiful, yes I’m beautiful, and I’m here” – which provokes the audience to rise up, tear up and cheer. Why we do so helps explain what makes this Broadway revival so wonderful.

“I’m Here” is a rousing song, one of 18 tuneful, toe-tapping melodies in the musical in a variety of styles – gospel, blues, ragtime, jazz and some beautiful ballads. Erivo sings it in a crystal-clear voice that is capable of both exquisite nuance and shattering power. That’s a good description of her performance as a whole –  one of three extraordinary Broadway debuts by strikingly talented women, including Jennifer Hudson and Danielle Brooks (who portrays Taystee in Orange Is the New Black.)…John Doyle, the director of this first Broadway revival of the 2005 musical, makes sure that our focus stays on Celie, by streamlining the production. He has reduced the size of the cast by about a third, and cut some 20 minutes of dialogue….The stripped-down result somehow makes this entertainment feel closer to a spiritual experience, which is what Alice Walker intended.

Marjorie Prime 2

Marjorie Prime

Jordan Harrison’s insightful and only slightly science fiction play…takes place 60 years in the future…Its main strength is not in its imagining of future robots, but in its precise perceptions of present-day family dynamics….Lois Smith, who is herself 85 and has been acting in New York City since 1951,  gives another one of her lustrous performances.

These Paper Bullets 3

These Paper Bullets

“These Paper Bullets,” a mash up of the Bard’s “Much Ado About Nothing” with a spoof of the Fab Four, is great to look at, with songs by Billie Joe Armstrong that are fabulous to listen to. So why did I find so much of it excruciating to sit through?

The answer is the tone. In what felt like an almost desperate effort to entertain us, playwright Rolin Jones and director Jackson Gay too often effect a Monty Python-like silliness…You either find all this goofiness funny or you don’t. I didn’t

ClimateChangetrash

Where Have All The Glaciers Gone?

n the same weekend that 195 nations reached an unprecedented agreement to take action on climate change, a dozen or so theatergoers were dancing the Climate Change Macarena…This dance of carbon emission reduction was one of 15 clever monologues, dances and scenes in “Where Have All The Glaciers Gone,” a collaborative theater piece that was part of the Climate Change Theatre Action. As its organizers explained, this was a series of performances and readings created “by writers from all six livable continents,” and presented in at least 70 venues around the globe – an ambitious, well-meaning and, let’s face it, intimidating project. What a relief, then, to find that one of these shows was actually entertaining – fun and funny.

Fiddler on the RoofBroadway Theatre

Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on the RoofBroadway TheatreTevye is back on Broadway, this time with Danny Burstein as the Russian Jewish milkman who tries to uphold tradition. “Fiddler on the Roof” has become a tradition in its own right….Such a show will always draw an audience, and the new revival certainly has its rewards. Chief among them is Burstein…And yet, the biggest surprise of a production directed by Bartlett Sher, who did such wonders helming the Lincoln Center revival of The King and I and, before that, of South Pacific, is how ultimately unexceptional his “Fiddler on the Roof” feels. As those in Anatevka might put it: This, you couldn’t make more thrilling?

 

 

Week in New York Theater News

The Hudson Theatre

The Hudson, built on 44th St. in 1903,converted in 1994 for conferences,will reopen as the 41st Broadway theater

Broadway Tax Break: A change in the tax code passed by Congress means that Broadway and live theater productions would be given the same benefits that have long been afforded to TV and film productions.

Richard Nelson’s new three-play cycle The Gabriels,next year, is a follow-up of sorts to Nelson’s Apple Family plays, The Gabriels will open on the day it is set (including Election Day 2016) and unfold in real time

David Cromer (Our Town) to direct The Effect by Lucy Prebble (Enron) about romance during a drug trial. Begins March at the Barrow Street Theater

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About 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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