Today Stephen Sondheim turns 87 and Andrew Lloyd Webber turns 69. Each has more than one show currently running on New York stages — Sondheim: Sunday in the Park with George, and Sweeney Todd; Lloyd Webber: Cats, Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock, and Sunset Boulevard. Four days ago, John Kander celebrated his 90th birthday.
All three have helped inspire a new generation of theater makers.
In other words, theater persists, in the face of what many would characterize as nothing less than an attack on culture.
New York theatergoers looked to the government this past week for support of the arts – the government of Canada, when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended “Come From Away” on Broadway, accompanied by some 600 friends and allies, mostly Canadian, but also a number of UN ambassadors, and Ivanka Trump.
Her father was invited as well, but according to an article in the Washington Post, he said “Absolutely not,” and flew to Nashville instead to visit the gravesite of Andrew Jackson.
That same day, the Ides of March, came news of Trump’s budget plan, which calls for “the elimination of of four independent cultural agencies” – the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. (See 4-minute “Donald The Musical” below.)
— Actors’ Equity (@ActorsEquity) March 18, 2017
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) March 16, 2017
— Arts Action Fund (@ArtsActionFund) March 21, 2017
Without art, there is no empathy. Without empathy, there is no justice.~Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, speaking at the annual Hanks Lecture.
Week in New York Theater Reviews
Danny DeVito, making his Broadway debut, gets the best deal out of The Price. Arthur Miller is not a playwright known for comically colorful characters, yet here’s DeVito as Gregory Solomon, a Jewish acrobat turned 89-year-old used furniture dealer who “smoked all my life, I drinked, and I loved every woman who would let me.”
DeVito’s character is the most enjoyable but not a central one in Miller’s sober family drama, now getting its fifth production on Broadway, in a cast that also includes Mark Ruffalo, Jessica Hecht and Tony Shalhoub. If none are at their absolute best here, that only means that all of them at one time or another have given performances that have left me in awe.
Week in New York Theater News
The Fantasticks is set to close June 4 after 4390 performances at Jerry Orbach Theater. (Previously it ran 17,162 at Sullivan St Playhouse, opening in 1960)
The New Jersey high school that put on “Ragtime” after a controversy over the N-word, wins the “Courage in Theatre” Award from Music Theatre International.
My look at the controversy: The N-Word on Stage
What’s new on Broadway? Living playwrights, form-breaking musicals, & nonprofits all over both. Our special section: https://t.co/poAe9v3o03
— American Theatre (@AmericanTheatre) March 21, 2017
The First Theatrical Landmark of the Trump Era
Lynn Nottage’s play “Sweat” “opened at the Public Theatre last November, five days before the Presidential election, which gave the country a new fixation: the Rust Belt working class. Who were these people who had cast their lot with Donald Trump? Why had the media—and the Democrats—largely ignored their troubles? Nottage was an unlikely teller of the story: an Ivy League-educated black woman from Brooklyn. “One of the mantras I heard the steelworkers repeat over and over again was ‘We invested so many years in this factory, and they don’t see us. We’re invisible,’ ” Nottage said. “I think it profoundly hurt their feelings.”
…“Sweat” ’s transfer to Studio 54—it is Nottage’s Broadway début—may make it the first theatrical landmark of the Trump era: a tough yet empathetic portrait of the America that came undone. “Most folks think it’s the guilt or rage that destroys us,” one character says. “But I know from experience that it’s shame that eats us away until we disappear.” Nottage wasn’t prescient—she was as shocked as anyone by the election result. But what wasn’t shocking “was the extent of the pain,” she told me. “These were people who felt helpless, who felt like the American dream that they had so deeply invested in had been suddenly ripped away. I was sitting with these white men, and I thought, You sound like people of color in America.”
RIP Derek Walcott, 87, Nobel Laureate, poet, and playwright of more than 20 plays, including “Dream on Monkey Mountain, “which won an Obie; and “The Capeman,” a collaboration with Paul Simon on Broadway. He founded Boston Playwrights’ Theatre as a showcase for new plays. Obituary. More on his playwriting