A New Golden Age. The Week in New York Theater.

Hamilton, Taylor Mac, Broadway Black, Lupita Nyongo in Eclipsed, Playwrights Horizons, Mark Rylance, Timothee Chalomet in Prodigal Son, Cynthia Erivo in The Color Purple, Lois Smith — these are among the examples cited in  28 Reasons Why New York Theater Is, Improbably, Thriving by Jesse Green in New York Magazine.

And thanks to the Internet,  Green writes, “The New York theater audience, for the first time since the Rodgers and Hammerstein era, reaches to Oklahoma and beyond” — which not everybody thinks is always a good thing. (See Patti Murin’s complaint, below in the Week in New York Theater News.)

AlbertEinsteinwithviolinAmericans for the Arts adds its annual 10 Reasons to Support The Arts — e.g. the arts strengthen the economy, the arts improve academic performance, and the arts spark creativity and innovation: “Nobel laureates in the sciences are 17 times more likely to be actively engaged in the arts than other scientists.”



One day left to enter my contest for two tickets to Bright Star on Broadway. Answer the question: What is the best Broadway song ever?

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

The shows this week seem to come in pairs. There are the two bluegrass musicals (and more to come), two plays about women struggling during economic hard times, two about the search for love, and then two…disasters.

Khris Davis (Jay), McKinley Belcher III (Fish)
Khris Davis (Jay), McKinley Belcher III (Fish)

The Royale

“The Royale” is a 90 minute blast of inventive staging that is “loosely inspired” (as we are told in the program) by the life of Jack Johnson, the first African-American to become heavyweight boxing champion of the world and at his peak at the beginning of the twentieth century the most famous black man in the world…What does “The Royale” add to the abundant literature on the Champ? The answer is: not much….What “The Royale” offers is intense and innovative theatricality

Robber Bridegroom for Calendar Steven-Pasquale-and-the-company-in-THE-ROBBER-BRIDEGROOM-photo-by-Joan-Marcus%2c-2016

The Robber Bridegroom

In the revival of “The Robber Bridegroom,” a bluegrass musical folk tale, there are two sides to the character played by Steven Pasquale, an 18th century Mississippi Robin Hood – both a Southern gentleman and a masked bandit — who falls in love with the beautiful daughter of a wealthy planter. The production  has two sides as well.
There is the tunefully twangy if dated story theater side….Then there is the “fun” side. The actors and musicians occasionally seem to be having more fun performing than some of us do watching, given the actors’ penchant for breaking character, unable to stifle their laughter at their own cleverness and crotch jokes.


Southern Comfort

Robert Eads and Lola Cola are not just characters. They were among the real people who were featured in a 2001 film documentary with the same name as the musical. The documentary and the musical are about a group of transgender men and women who gathered once a month for Sunday dinners in Robert Eads’ home in the rural town of Toccoa, Georgia. They were people who had been rejected by the families into which they had been born, and had formed a “family of choice.”…It also helps that the two are brought to life on stage in two remarkable and very different performances, Annette O’Toole and Jeff McCarthy.



Disaster is a campy spoof of 1970s disaster movies mashed up with well-sung snippets of dozens of 1970s pop hits in order to produce moments of hilarity. I counted at least seven such moments. The problem is sitting through the 100 or so minutes in between them.

Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams
Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams


“Shock,” Michelle Williams says, as Jeff Daniels rushes her into the messy break room of an antiseptic corporate office, alarmed. It’s the first word in “Blackbird,” a play by David Harrower in which Una, a 27-year-old woman, tracks down Ray, a middle-aged man who had sex with her when she was 12. “What’ve you come here for?” Ray asks.
It’s a disturbing set-up, but my shock is reserved for the free pass that so many have been giving to a revival that feels like little more than a star-driven exercise in showy acting and goosed-up dramatic tension.


Marin Ireland and Josiah Bania in Ironbound by Martyna Majok
Marin Ireland and Josiah Bania in Ironbound by Martyna Majok


Darja, the central character in Ironbound, never leaves a barren bus stop on an ugly stretch of post-industrial New Jersey, but Martyna Majok’s rich play about a poor immigrant feels always on the move, determined to take us on a sad and funny adventure that shifts back and forth over 22 years.

What gives Ironbound much of its vigor is the mesmerizing way that it unfolds, revealing bit by bit a picture of this complicated woman — her men, her mistakes, her contradictions, her strengths…her story.

Nadia Bowers, Deirdre O’Connell, Anna O’Donoghue
Nadia Bowers, Deirdre O’Connell, Anna O’Donoghue

The Way West

In Mona Mansour’s timely black comedy at Labyrinth Theater Company about bankruptcy and the American way, Dierdre O’Connell plays a mother who likes to tell her two grown daughters stories about the West – about how Westerners are different, maybe better, because of their pioneering spirit. They faced many great challenges; they were given many new opportunities: “We got new land, new people, new ideas. You stake a claim, you find a granite wall, you stick the dynamite in, and boom. Maybe there’s gold.” Or maybe everything just blows up. In many of the stories she tells, the hardy pioneers don’t survive

Gavin Creel and Jane Krakowski
Gavin Creel and Jane Krakowski

She Loves Me

I left the Roundabout’s largely terrific revival of “She Loves Me” at Studio 54 singing most of the beautiful songs in my head. I’ll confess that I also entered Studio 54 singing those songs in my head…Still, even somebody who has never heard of this romantic musical comedy could easily fall in love with “She Loves Me.” Yes, the 1963 musical occasionally offers some dated views towards women, and this production contains a couple of portrayals that could be improved. But, as with the plot of the show, all rights itself by the end, thanks to the gorgeously melodic score, David Rockwell’s jewel box of a set, and the stand-out performances by Laura Benanti and Jane Krakowski as two lovelorn shopgirls in an elegant European parfumerie.


The Week in New York Theater News

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory logo

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory musical by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman revised by Jack O’Brian, is heading for Broadway in Spring 2017


On May 3rd, Andrew Rannells and Patina Miller will announce the nominations for The 2016 Tony Awards.


Rachel Tucker in Wicked
Rachel Tucker in Wicked

Wicked is now one of only three shows to gross $1 billion on Broadway.(Phantom of the Opera and The Lion King are the others.) See long-running Broadway musicals.

The Week in Hamilton News

#Bam4Ham Hamilton at the White House – four videos.

The Marine Band, created by Thomas Jefferson, plays “What’d I Miss,” the song by the character Thomas Jefferson in the musical Hamilton


Hamilton may stay on the 10-dollar bill, thanks to help from Broadway

Javier Munoz

Hamilton’s Javier Munoz reveals cancer diagnosis


You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, the 1971 musical based on Peanuts, is to be revived at the York Theatre Company, May 24- June 26. Inspired by a concert version of the musical at 54 Below last September that used child performers from several current Broadway shows, this Charlie Brown will feature  a cast of actual children!


The World Theatre Day message on March 27th will be given this year by Ping Chong and Russian director Anatoli Vassiliev





Nerds Musical, about Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs, will no longer open on Broadway this season “due to the loss of a major investor”


Patti Murin takes on Broadway World’s chat board, its “nasty faction of “fans” who take our hard work and turn it into gossip, and pissing contests over who can come up with the snarkiest insult or meme or GIF, and bragging rights over who is the most insider-y when it comes to Broadway and theatre secrets. It’s snarky. And you know, I like some light snark. But it’s nasty snark. Immature and uninformed people are hiding behind screen names and posting incorrect information, passing on rumors as facts, and just generally being dicks. To each other, and to us.”


“Musicals in general may be sentimental, mythologized, full of false optimism and showbiz glitz. But every now and then one features a moment that manages to be profound. That’s what we wait for.” – Jack Viertel in The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built

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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