Theater Survives. Color Purple Grabs a Grammy. Christian Borle Joins The Staged Resistance. Week in NY Theater

Theater goes back thousands of years — driven home by newly available theater-related images from the Metropolitan Museum of Art — and overpriced Broadway ticket prices won’t finally kill it. That’s because, for every Broadway musical announcing $750 tickets, there is an entire Off-Off Broadway festival for just $9/ (See details below, under “Not Discount,” and “Performeteria.”)

More below: Christian Borle joins the staged resistance; Isherwood is out; The Color Purple’s Grammy is just one of the theater awards announced this week. Will La La Land become a stage musical? Its director replies.

Week in New York Theater Reviews

Annie Dow and Eddie Martinez
Annie Dow and Eddie Martinez


Fade” is a play about the bond that develops between a Mexican-born TV writer and a Mexican-American janitor at the studio. Its author, Tanya Saracho, is a Mexican-born TV writer/producer …”Fade” is well acted, and Saracho’s script touches on several worthwhile issues…’s frankly hard to muster much outrage about the behind-the-scenes machinations of television.

The Object Lesson dinner 4

The Object Lesson

Geoff Sobelle, self-declared “maker of absurdist performance art,” is credited as the creator and performer of “The Object Lesson,” but it at least co-stars thousands of boxes. These are boxes that fill up the floor of the New York Theatre Workshop, and are stacked up to the ceiling….If Proust were a packrat, if Felix the Cat were a dramatist, they might have created something like “The Object Lesson.”

Kyle Scatliffe and Nicholas Barasch
Kyle Scatliffe and Nicholas Barasch

Big River

The Encores! production of “Big River” is a pleasant enough confection but with a bitter aftertaste.To understand why, it helps to know that, when he was 11 years old, Samuel Clemens discovered the mutilated corpse of a man named Noriam Todd – an escaped slave who had been hunted down and killed…This “Big River” [based on The Adventures of Huckleberr Finn] did not strike me as a weighty enough proaction, although there are plenty of lines…that use irony to point to the pervasive racial bigotry of the times.

Rolls Andre, Ben Langhorst, Damon Daunno
Rolls Andre, Ben Langhorst, Damon Daunno


In “Beardo,” we are back in Russia with Dave Malloy, the composer of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.” Instead of a Broadway theater, the Pipeline Theater Company’s new production of Malloy’s musical has opened at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. And instead of dramatizing a novel by Tolstoy, “Beardo” tells a fictional version of an actual figure in Russian history, the enigmatic Grigori Rasputin.

The Week in New York Theater News


Color Purple album

The 2017 Grammy for best musical theater album was given to The Color Purple

Other albums nominated: Bright Star, Fiddler on the Roof, Kinky Boots London, Waitress


The Dramatists Guild’s second annual Horton Foote Playwriting Award and $25,000 has been awarded to Rajiv Joseph.

The American Wing’s Jonathan Larsen $10,000 grants go to
Ben Bonnema
Maggie-Kate Coleman & Erato A. Kremmyda
Ty Defoe & Tidtaya Sinutoke
and Michael R. Jackson

Finalists for Susan Smith Blackburn Award for women playwrights:


Lin-Manuel Miranda will perform “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana at this year’s Oscars.


Production of Junk in L.A.
Production of Junk in L.A.

Playwright Ayad Akhtar (Disgraced) returns in September to Broadway with “Junk” (as in junk bonds) about greedy Wall Street traders


Yes, Charles Isherwood has left the New York Times as drama critic, and no, they are not eliminating the position.


sally_field_joe_mantello_Glass Menagerie“The Glass Menagerie” starring Sally Field and Joe Mantello will have $30 front-row rush tickets until it opens March 9

Annaleigh Ashford and Jake Gyllenhaal
Annaleigh Ashford and Jake Gyllenhaal

“Sunday in the Park with George” starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford will have $41 front row rush tickets until it opens February 22.

Not Discount

Bette Midler
Bette Midler

“Front Row Premium” seats for Hello, Dolly starring Bette Midler now on sale..,for $550 – $750.


Off-Off Broadway Festival – Performeteria

For two nights only (Monday, March 20 and Friday, March 24), TDF will present Performeteria – 10-minute snippers of site-specific works from 15 Off-Off Broadway theater companies. Tickets are just nine dollars.



Mare Winningham has joined the cast of “Joan of Arc: Into the Fire” by David Byrne, running Feb 14- Ap 16, at the Public Theater.


There will be no Radio City New York Spectacular in 2017, say producers, while they work to make it better



The Williamstown Theater Festival this summer will include four world premieres

6-3545_Ana Villafañe as Gloria Estefan in ON YOUR FEET! (c) Matthew Murphy

On Your Feet begins a 31-city tour in October in (where else) Miami,


Will La-La Land be a stage musical?
‘I know people have mentioned it. I’m not closed to the idea,” [Damien] Chazelle said. “I will say though that part of the intention of this movie was to try to make something that had to be on the screen, to make a true screen musical in the fullest sense of that term, not an adaptation, not something that was kind of cross-media, but something that was made and written and intended and composed and sung and danced for the screen. So it’s not to say it couldn’t work on the stage, but it would have to be completely re-conceived and I don’t know if I’m even the person for that job.’”
(quoted by Deadline’s Pete Hammond)

Staged Resistance

2017 Shakespeare in the Park: Julius Caesar (“never felt more contemporary”) 5/23-6/18 Midsummer Nights Dream (escape?) 7/11-8/13


Christian Borle to play lead in Woodshed Collective’s rstagedeading of Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at Judson Church February 20 (Presidents Day) The Brecht play is the first in the company’s 20/20 Reading Series of “anti-fascist & political plays speaking to current political climate”


What do we do in the time of Trump? The theater community is trying to figure out the answer.




The N-Word on Stage

The wrangling over a production of Ragtime in a New Jersey high school demonstrates that the use of the word on stage remains, “complicated”—and confusing, and dizzying in the array of questions it provokes, among them: How far can a work go in order to be historically accurate, or (if a contemporary piece) authentic? How alienating are stage characters allowed to be? How much must playwrights and directors and producers keep audience sensitivities in mind (does it depend on the particular audience?) or is their only mandate to present the truth? Whose truth? Does it matter who the “truth teller” is?


Harvey Lichtenstein, 87, who led the Brooklyn Academy of Music for 32 years, turning into a center of cutting edge arts. During his tenure, he presented such once-in-a-lifetime theatrical events as
Peter Brook’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Philip Glass’s “Satyagraha,” an opera about Mahatma Gandhi’s youth in South Africa
“The Gospel at Colonus,” a freewheeling adaptation by Lee Breuer and Bob Telson of a work by the Greek tragedian Sophocles
Philip Glass opera, “Einstein on the Beach”
Brook’s “The Mahabharata,” a nine-hour dramatic voyage through Hindu theology and mythology.

Arthur and Barbara Gelb
Arthur and Barbara Gelb

Barbara Gelb, O’Neill biographer, playwright, 91


“Professor” Irwin Corey, seven-time Broadway veteran and a comic who styled himself the World’s Foremost Authority, 102

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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