Rockers on Broadway: Alanis, Anaïs, Melissa and Michael Jackson. New York on Stage: Rent, Generation NYZ, Rodgers and Hart. #Stageworthy News of the Week

It was a good week to test your view of New York — the 1990s Bohemia  presented in Rent Live on Fox (which was largely Rent Recorded), or the grittier view expressed by the city’s teenagers in “Generation NYZ,” part of Ping Chong’s Undesirable Elements series at LaMaMa?  How about by the African-American playwrights of the Fire this Time Festival? The truth is, in some ways, all of these share the sardonic and romantic view of the city by Rodgers and Hart in the 1920s, as presented by Santino Fontana as part of the Lyrics and Lyricists series at the 92nd Street Y? (It’s very fancy on old Delancey Street, you know/The subway charms us so.)


Week in New York Theater Reviews and Previews

Generation NYZ

To the seven young performers who tell the stories of their lives in “Generation NYZ,” New York means subways and pizza and opportunity, but also cops and catcalling and homelessness.

They are all New Yorkers, but — as they recount for us over the course of 70 increasingly engaging minutes — either they or their parents or grandparents came from somewhere else. They tell, in other words, the story of New York, and of America.

Rent Live

I had worried that, in Rent Live,  Fox television would ruin Jonathan Larson’s musical about bohemian life in the East Village of the 1980s by bowdlerizing it. I felt it worth watching anyway because its cast of celebrated young screen stars and recording artists would make the most of the catchy tunes.

As it turns out, it wasn’t the redacted content but rather a bad break and a series of poor choices that made “Rent” disappointing. And though the cast was clearly full of talent, only a few standouts brought it home in any memorable way. Brandon Victor Dixon, the one performer with the most live theater experience, floored us as Tom Collins,

We’ll Have Manhattan: Rodgers and Hart in New York

When at the age of 17 composer Richard Rodgers met 24-year-old lyricist Lorenz Hart in 1919, he instantly acquired “a career, a partner, a best friend and a source of permanent irritation.”

So Rodgers wrote, in one of the many tidbits Santino Fontana tells us in “We’ll Have Manhattan: Rodgers and Hart in New York,” Fontana’s celebration, as part of the 92ndStreet Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists series, of the hundredth anniversary of Rodgers and Hart’s partnership



God Said This

Leah Nanako Winkler was sitting on the couch in her mother’s hospital room in Kentucky while her mother was undergoing chemotherapy for a form of cancer called carcinosarcoma, when the playwright started writing what became God Said This. “It just came out.”

The play, now on stage at the Cherry Lane Theater through February 15, revolves around Masako, a Japanese-born mother who is undergoing chemotherapy for carcinosarcoma, and explores the effect of her illness on her family.

The Fire This Time Festival

Over the past decade, the annual festival, created to showcase early-career playwrights of African and African-American descent, has presented some of the first New York plays of such now-celebrated writers as Katori Hall (known for such later works as The Mountaintop and Our Lady of Kibeho), Dominique Morisseau (Pipeline, Skeleton Crew  and the book for the forthcoming Broadway musical “Ain’t Too Proud”), and Jocelyn Bioh (School Girls or the African Mean Girls Play) .

This year’s offerings are not particularly political, although they do touch (often obliquely) on issues as varied as gentrification, immigration, protest, feminism, homophobia, and affirmative action.

Ruthie Ann Miles as Immigration Judge Craig Zerbe

The Courtroom

Elizabeth Keathley moved to the United State from the Philippines, married an American, and three years later registered to vote, even though she was not yet a citizen. As a result, the government ordered her deported.

“The Courtroom”is a re-enactment by Waterwell theater company of her deportation proceedings,  using the transcript as edited by Arian Moayed, directed by Waterwell’s artistic director Lee Sunday Evans, with Ruthie Ann Miles as Immigration Judge Craig Zerbe, and Kathleen Chalfant as Chief Judge Frank H. Easterbrook for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The play is being presented for free through February 1 in a series of court-like settings

Red State Blue State

Near the end of Colin Quinn’s stand-up comedy, which promises to “lay bare the absurdities…on both sides of the political divide,” the Saturday Night Live alumnus manages to insult every single state of the union…It’s a baffling routine, almost tedious and even tacky…emblematic of Quinn’s enterprise….hit or miss and a missed opportunity.

Week in New York Theater News

“Jagged Little Pill” is coming to Broadway. The musical by Alanis Morissette based on her 1995 album, put together after she was robbed at gunpoint. will open sometime in Fall, 2019, directed by Diane Paulus, who directed it for the American Repertory Theater last year.  Cast, dates and specific theater to be determined.

Finalists for the 2019 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, honoring women playwrights

Hilary Bettis  (U.S.)- 72 miles to go…

Jackie Sibblies Drury (U.S.)- Fairview

debbie tucker green (U.K.)-  ear for eye

Ella Hickson (U.K.)- The Writer

Martyna Majok (U.S.)- Sanctuary City

Lily Padilla (U.S.)- How to Defend Yourself

Nina Raine  (U.K.)- Stories

Ella Road (U.K.)-The Phlebotomist

Heidi Schreck (U.S.)- What the Constitution Means to Me

Lauren Yee (U.S.)- Cambodian Rock Band

What Should We Do About Scandalous Artists?
Accusations of misconduct against beloved creators are changing the way we think about genius

today as in the past, one of the most visible ways that our culture negotiates changing ideas about morality is by thinking about art and artists. Is an artist’s work tainted by his personal wrongdoing? Should we give honor and respect to people who excel in their art but are deficient in what we consider ordinary morality? These questions have been at the heart of modern thinking about art since the 19th century; but since the advent of the #MeToo movement, they have begun to receive new kinds of answers.

if Oscar Wilde’s case were being tried today, he might once again be widely scorned—not because the prostitutes he patronized were male, but because they were young, poor and powerless. The hostile gossip that surrounded him at the time, English critic Kate Hext writes, “would be nothing compared to the long lenses and comments section of Daily Mail Online, or the verdicts of social media.”


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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