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Amy, Uma or Chloe? Terrorist Attempt in Times Square. More Theater Harassment. The Week in NY Theater.

As if to underscore what a demoralizing year this has been, theater lovers can’t just snuggle up with the rash of new openings, usual holiday season sentimentality and end-of-year assessments – such as which blonde star made the most impressive Broadway debut? Disturbing news just keeps on coming, including an explosive device set off this morning in Port Authority Bus Terminal, and more about harassment in the theater, including a credible accusation against Dustin Hoffman while on Broadway.

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

My reviews from this past week are listed in the order of my preference, beginning with my favorite:

Once on this Island

The first Broadway revival of “Once on This Island,” a stunning storybook production of a Caribbean-flavored folktale, begins in the aftermath of a natural disaster, as a story of love and loss told to soothe a frightened girl. With a terrifically appealing cast, including Lea Salonga as the goddess of love and several impressive Broadway debuts, as well as a rhythmic score, infectious choreography, vibrantly colorful design, and clever stagecraft,  the musical itself could well serve to soothe audience members reeling from the year’s many disasters. There are even live roosters and a goat cute enough to be the star attraction in a petting zoo.

SpongeBob SquarePants

“SpongeBob SquarePants” ends with a cascade of confetti descending on our heads…AND crepe paper streamers…AND soap bubbles…followed by beach balls. This more or less sums up the more-is-more approach of the Broadway musical, which aims to win us over, whatever it’ll take. And so this show, based on the wildly popular television cartoon for children about a sponge, works hard to catch both your eye and your ear for two and a half hours, with a cast of more than two dozen talented performers singing and dancing to a score composed by almost as many songwriters — 22 different recording artists or bands, from David Bowie to Panic at the Disco — amid ceaseless bursts of psychedelic Day-Glo color created by David Zinn’s spectacularly playful sets.

Describe the Night

Playwright Rajiv Joseph aims high in this ambitious, pertinent, resonant, sometimes compelling but often confusing drama that sprawls over 90 years (and three hours), taking place in Poland, Russia, and East Germany, branching out surreally from its roots in actual historical events. The central and most intriguing of these true stories is the relationship between the Russian Jewish writer Isaac Babel (portrayed by Danny Burstein, last on Broadway in “Fiddler on the Roof”) and the head of Stalin’s Soviet Secret Police Nikolai Yezhov (Zach Grenier, best known as the aggressive divorce lawyer David Lee in “The Good Wife.”

Glass Guignol

In its forty-seventh year, Mabou Mines is inaugurating its first permanent home, the ninety-nine-seat Mabou Mines Theater in the East Village, with a newly devised piece called Glass Guignol: The Brother and Sister Play, a riff on Tennessee Williams that presents passages from four of his plays, most prominently The Glass Menagerie. But to summarize the piece in such a straightforward way fails to capture the elusiveness of the work by this celebrated avant-garde theatre company. Glass Guignol makes the recent, critically bludgeoned, experimental The Glass Menagerie directed by Sam Gold on Broadway feel like a production for the Hallmark Hall of Fame.

The Parisian Woman

Uma Thurman and Josh Lucas neither kill a dog nor bed an FBI agent in The Parisian Woman, a tame, tidy, talky and only superficially timely play about a D.C. power couple engaged in political intrigue. It is written by Beau Willimon, who is also the creator of Netflix’s more daring House of Cards, where for five seasons the Underwoods have killed and bed with abandon.

Meteor Showers

Reverting to his early-career wackiness,  Steve Martin enlists four phenomenal performers, including Amy Schumer making her Broadway debut, for a joke-filled, overlong, trickster comedy sketch about marriage that is an uneasy stew of Neil Simon and Edward Albee, but falls short of either….Meteor Shower may be a cloudburst of laugh lines lasting only about 80 minutes, but its non-sequiturs and silliness turn tedious in a remarkably short time..

The Week in New York Theater News

Suspect Akayed Ullah, 27,
sets off bomb in Port Authority bus terminal in Times Square. Four injured.
“This was an attempted terrorist attack” – NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio

 

Irony of the week: Broadway casting director booted from ‘Norma Rae’ musical after union push

Broadway Records has announced a new Broadway cast recording of Once On This Island, set for February.

Theater on Screen

1.AT THE PALEY CENTER FOR MEDIA, free screenings in conjunction with BroadwayCon

SUNDAY, JANUARY 14

12:15 pm Carousel (1967)

2:15 pm Carousel Roundtable Discussion (2013)

3 pm Pippin on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1972)

SUNDAY, JANUARY 21

12:15 pm Brigadoon (1966)

 

1:45 pm South Bank Show: The Andrew Lloyd Webber Story (1986)

2. On PBS:

Tony Bennett: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, January 12, 2018, at 9 PM ET. The all-star tribute to Bennett  features performances by Josh Groban, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Savion Glover, Michael Feinstein, and many more.

Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart, which explores the life and work of the A Raisin in the Sun playwright and activist. January 19 at 9 PM ET. LaTanya Richardson Jackson narrates with Tony winner Anika Noni Rose as the voice of Hansberry. Both appeared in the 2014 Broadway revival of the play.

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Sundays, May 13 and 20 at 8 PM, featuring Angela Lansbury

At BroadwayCon

 

A dog chases a cat in CATS

During the opening number of the musical CATS, the service dog of a theatergoing “got away from its owner and ran after Bombalurina,” the character performed by actress Mackenzie Warren.

Previewing season 4 of Mozart in the Jungle, featuring Bernadette Peters

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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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