Broadway Black. The Week in NY Theater


Theater artist Anna Deavere Smith received the George Polk Career Award, one of the top awards in journalism.

“This was not a traditional choice for us, because she doesn’t fit neatly in the category of journalist. ” John Darnton, curator of the Polk Awards, told Deadline, but the awards committee “realized she’s first of all a reporter in the way she goes about researching her topic.”

Smith, a familiar face as a performer, has created seminal theater pieces as “Fires In The Mirror,” about the Crown Heights riots. Recent works include “Notes from the Field,” about the school-to-prison pipeline and “Let Me Down Easy,” about healthcare in America.


Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan is the new Pierre in “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” taking over from Josh Groban on July 3, 2017. He portrayed the original Hercules Mulligan and President James Madison in the musical Hamilton.



Speaking of presidents, Toby Blackwell portrayed Barack Obama in an obscure 2012 Off-Off Broadway play entitled “Obama in Naples.” Virtually all the U.S. presidents have been portrayed on a New York stage, as my photo essay on Presidents Day attests.



The 115th Street branch of the New York Public Library is being renamed for Harry Belafonte, as the singer, actor, activist and Tony Award winner nears 90th birthday on March 1.

Week in NY Theater Reviews

Reed Birney and Nana Mensah

Man from Nebraska

There are three great reasons to see the New York stage debut of Man From Nebraska, without even knowing what it’s about: Its author Tracy Letts (August: Osage County), its director David Cromer (Our Town), a cast that features Reed Birney (The Humans.) These remain even when you learn it’s about a man’s mid-life crisis….We never get details explaining Ken’s spiritual crisis; there are no stimulating intellectual or theological debates. Nor do we get a resolution so much as just an ending…..If little is explained, this winds up not mattering as much as it might in the hands of lesser theater artists. These artists feel in full control.

(See below for news about Tracy Letts)

Matthew Broderick and Wallace Shawn in Shawn's Evening at the Talk House

Evening at the Talk House

“The theatre is gone, but there are new things now,” says Matthew Broderick in Wallace Shawn’s chilling comedy, which imagines a dystopian but familiar society where former theatre people have gone on to television, or to a day job, such as murderer. “My paycheck arrives with complete regularity,” says an ex wardrobe supervisor turned assassin.

…The wit and the horror of Shawn’s play is how, amid the kind of gossip, backbiting and nostalgic reminiscences standard from old troupers everywhere, the characters casually segue into conversations about “targeting” – killing people deemed undesirable.


Sunset Boulevard

There was thunderous applause the night I saw “Sunset Boulevard” for Hillary Clinton as she took her seat right before the musical began. It would be snarky to observe it was the greatest ovation of the night, but I was struck by how much was packed into that greeting – admiration, defiance, a shared history, shared emotion, a shared loss.

There was certainly admiration for the revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, especially for the dazzling encore performance of Glenn Close as Norma Desmond, 22 years after she won a Tony Award for the same role. But this show about a once-famous film star trying for a comeback, and the screenwriter who becomes her boy toy and her victim, carried relatively little emotional weight or complexity.

Week in NY Theater News

Arts Groups Draft Battle Plans as Trump Funding Cuts Loom



“The MInutes,” a new play by Tracy Letts (August:Osage County) is planned for Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago before a Broadway set to open March 2018. Here is a description of it:

“A town’s proud history, the legend of a local hero,
the coveted privilege of reserved parking:
nothing is sacred during the town council meeting
at the heart of Tracy Lett’s new play.
This razor-sharp comedy turns from hilarious to chilling
as petty policy matters give way to the truth roiling
just beneath the surface of the town’s historical mythology.”

In Chicago Tribune: The play “was penned by Letts during the heat of the fall presidential campaign and election. Following its Chicago run (Nov. 9 to Dec. 31), the production then will move directly to Broadway with its Chicago cast intact.”

“I think our new president will love it,” said Steppenwolf artistic director, Anna D. Shapiro, in an interview Thursday. “I am excited for the tweets.”


When Jessie Mueller leaves Waitress, she’ll be succeded the show’s creator, Sara Bareilles, starting March 31 for 10 weeks.


Big Apple Circus saved

Full cast announced for The Little Foxes,opening at MTC’s  Samuel J. Friedman  April 19.



Broome St Academy, a NYC public charter high schoo,l has won a American Theatre Wing Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative grant of $12,000.  It is one of seven schools nationwide to be given grants this year.

Congratulations Laura Benanti and her husband, new parents of Ella Rose Benanti-Brown, born on Valentine’s Day


Stage Kisses in the last 100 years


Watch the cast of “Significant Other”

When the President of the United States Tweeted that the press was the “enemy of the American people,” he (surely unintentionally) evoked Ibsen’s 1882 play “An Enemy of the People.”

Ibsen used “Enemy of the People” ironically. Main character actually a hero, targeted by ignorant mob.
The press=heroes; Trump=mob

— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) February 17, 2017



RIP Max Ferra, 79, founder INTAR THEATRE, Off Broadway company producing Latino playwrights in English

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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