In Defense of Kong and Offense at Prom. Moulin Rouge on Broadway. John Kander and Lin-Manuel Miranda team up. #Stageworthy news of the week.

This week in New York theater, I seem to have zigged while others zagged, even when it comes to zazz.
To explain:
1. I don’t completely understand the high level of snark about “King Kong.” ( “Ugh,” Jesse Green in the New York Times in a joint review with Ben Brantley, who wrote ““aaaaaaaaargh.”) Yes, as I think I make clear in my review below, I get that this is not a musical for the ages. But who would expect that from a show about a GIANT GORILLA? The original film was beloved because of its special effects.
2. I don’t completely share the outpouring of affection for “The Prom.” (Sara Holdren calls it “giddy, smart, big-hearted” in her review in New York.) Yes, “The Prom” has its pleasures, among them a fun number entitled “Zazz,” (pictured above), a word that one of the Broadway characters claims Bob Fosse used frequently. But the satire seems aimed not just at the self-regarding theater folk but at the “local yokels,” and the razzmatazz upstages, and thus risks trivializing, the homophobic incident, based on a true story, that is central to the plot. This is not the first time serious issues have been used in Broadway musicals to add some heft to a giddy entertainment, but I didn’t like it when they did that in “Kinky Boots,” “Hairspray,” “Mean Girls,” or “Summer” either.

Kander and Miranda?

The latest #Hamildrop: “Cheering For Me Now,” with lyrics and vocals by Lin-Manuel Miranda and music by John Kander, best known as the composer half of Kander and Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret.. Will this now be a new musical force, Kander and Miranda? It’s certainly mellifluous


Thanksgiving Week Schedule and Recommendations

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

The Prom

The Prom” is really two musicals in one. One is a funny, knowing backstage comedy, satirizing the self-regard of theater folk. The other is a loud, fast high school musical. What ties them together, somewhat glibly, is a story of homophobia inspired by true events at a high school far from New York.

King Kong

King Kong is spectacular — those dreamy eyes, that expressive sniffing of his nose, the earthquake of a roar. He is such a singular creature that, like Ann Darrow, the damsel he picks up in his impressively flexible hand, I started feeling protective towards him – and, by extension, toward the Broadway musical that he dominates.
No, “King Kong” didn’t need to be made into a musical. But here it is, and it’s fun.
No, the book is neither “Grapes of Wrath“ (“Apes of Wrath”?) nor “Rocky Horror Show” – neither profound nor campy – and the score isn’t especially memorable. But both deserve a vigorous defense.

The Hidden Ones

We must be silent, here in this secret attic apartment where two Jewish families are hiding from the Nazis. And so, in “The Hidden Ones,” a spare and chilling immersive theater piece, the seven audience members sit on the bed, or in a corner chair or on a box, and silently witness the cast of seven silently go about their day …By keeping us in the dark, both literally and metaphorically, “The Hidden Ones” suggests in a very small but disquieting way the darkness of the Holocaust.

Thom Pain (based on nothing)

Like a boxer faking out an opponent, Michael C. Hall as Thom Pain plays tricks on the audience in Will Eno’s one-character play….For Thom’s jousts and jabs to feel like something more than random cleverness and intermittent entertainment, the actor must somehow show us an interior life that’s seething… that he’s trying to mask.
One might suppose that such seething could come easily to Michael C. Hall, who played a serial killer on cable TV for eight seasons. But Dexter was a doll (the series depicting his murders as morally justified and him as well-meaning.) There is less menace than master of ceremonies in Hall’s portrayal of Pain.

Wild Goose Dreams

The heart of Hansol Jung’s play at the Public Theater is the relationship between two lonely, awkward people in South Korea who connect through an online dating site. But the play also features a talking penguin in the toilet. And a North Korean military marching band….“Wild Goose Dreams” is cluttered with cleverness, awash with theatrical invention. What makes the play worth seeing, though, is its quieter but in many ways richer aspects – the complexity and pathos of the three central characters.

The Week in NY Theater News

The Ferryman extends through July 7

“Phoebe Waller-Bridge is bringing her breakout stage-show-turned-television-hit “Fleabag” to New York for an Off Broadway run next year. The one-person show will begin previews on Feb. 28 and open on March 7 at SoHo Playhouse and run through April 7

King Kong digital lottery: A limited number of tickets will be available for $49 each and will be sold the day of the performance.

Rebel Wilson is yet another celebrity who will perform in the cast of the Cats musical film. Does anybody realize that all of these stars – may be unrecognizable under the heavy makeup and may indeed be
Unrecognizable? Joins ‘Cats’ Musical a


Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, subject of a new TV series on Fx

A new TV series ‘Fosse/Verdon’” will star Sam Rockwell, as director Bob Fosse, and Michelle Williams as Gwen Verdon.
And feature Norbert Leo Butz, Ethan Slater, and Laura Osnes on FX planned for the Spring.
Steven Levenson, the writer of the book for the musical “Dear Evan Hansen”, will be the showrunner and one of the four executive producers – two of theothers are Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tommy Kail

Levenson’s terrific Off-Broadway play,  If I Forget will be broadcast December 3 at 10 PM on WNET 13

43rd annual Humana Festival of New Plays  features new plays by Naomi Wallace, Lucas Hnath Lily Padilla, Dave Harris

Pro Tactile Theater — a theater company for the deaf-blind.


Jerry Frankel, 88, producer of more than 50 Broadway shows over the last 20 years (including the current hit @wecomefromaway), and Tony winner for nine of them. (eg August Osage County, All The Way)

Wiliam Goldman, 87, Oscar-winning screenwriter, novelist, and less successful Broadway playwright (most recently the stage adaptation of “Misery”) but also author of  “The Season,” an oft-acclaimed non-fiction book about a Broadway season.

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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