Anastasia Ending. Hercules Coming to Central Park. Laura Benanti Continuing. Diversity vs. Blackface on Stage. #Stageworthy News of the Week

Young Jean Lee

Playwright Young Jean Lee wrote an Op-Ed this week about the advantages of affirmative action in education and diversity in the theater. Looking at some of the faces below of the people who made theater news this week helps provide the proof — performer Billy Porter delivering the LGBTQ State of the Union; Qui Nguyen announcing a sequel to his “Vietgone”; Kenny Leon directing Shakespeare and Kristoffer Diaz writing the book for the stage musical Hercules, both in Central Park; a new trophy for Yazbek (David) and a new role for Yazbeck (Tony), both descended from Lebanese immigrants.    It’s bracing then to realize that it’s the theater that popularized blackface; for nearly a century the minstrel show was the most popular stage entertainment in America, and, as recent events make clear, it remains part of our cultural DNA. (See my Blackface on Stage: The Complicated History of Minstrel Shows.)

Off Broadway Week through February 24th.

The Week in New York Theater Reviews and Previews


The Trial of the Catonsville Nine

More than half a century has passed since the Berrigan brothers, both of them priests, along with seven other Catholic activists, broke the law to protest the Vietnam War… The Trial of the Catonsville Nine” ran on Broadway for 29 performances in June, 1971, with a 16-member cast including Sam Waterston and James Woods…
Now, the Transport Group is presenting what it calls a radical re-imagining of the playWhat’s changed most drastically is the staging. In place of 16 actors, there are now only three who juggle all the characters. All three of the performers are Asian-American

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Talking Band’s City of No Illusions

“City of No Illusions” (the title a nickname for Buffalo, since the Blizzard of 1977), which Talking Band artistic director Paul Zimet has both written and directed.  Running from February 8 to 24th at La MaMa, the play explores this connection between death and immigration in scenes that alternate between serious, satirical and surreal. The cast includes young performers who are themselves immigrants portraying the characters who are immigrants or refugees.

The Week in New York Theater News

The Band’s Visit album wins the Grammy for best musical theater album. Watch songs from all the nominees at Broadway at the Grammys. – plus ALL GRAMMY WINNERS for best musical album since 1959

Thirty-three-day #NotaLabRat strike by Actors Equity is over, with the Broadway League agreeing to profit sharing and higher wages.


Anastasia will end its Broadway run on March 31, having played 808 regular and 34 preview performances. It’s already on tour internationally, with more tours planned.

Laura Benanti will extend her run by five months in Lincoln Center’s My Fair Lady, through July 7.

Congratulations to Edmund Donovan, winner of the Clive Barnes Award in Theater, for his role in Lewiston/Clarkston

New Shakespeare in the Park summer season at the Delacorte:

Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Kenny Leon May 21 – June 23

Coriolanus, directed by Daniel Sullivan, July 16 – Aug 11

Hercules, music by Al Menken, book by Kristoffer Diaz, directed by Lear deBessonet Aug 31 – Sep 8



MTC’s 2019-2020 season adds three new plays:

1. The Height of the Storm by Florian Zeller starring Jonathan Pryce and Eileen Atkins, opening September 24

2. Poor Yella Rednecks by Qui Nguyen (Vietgone), directed by May Adrales, opening June 2, 2020

3. The New Englanders by Jeff Augustin, directed by Saheem Ali, opening October 2, 2019

Lincoln Center appoints Henry Timms its new president andCEO. Timms currently heads the 92nd Street Y and came up with the idea for #GivingTuesday. His new  job begins in May.

Tony Yazbeck et al to star in Marc Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock, March 21 – May 19 at Classic Stage Company. “The 1937 premiere of this story of American class tension directed by Orson Welles was famously shut down on the eve of opening night by federal authorities”

Joining Alex Brightman and Sophia Anne Caruso in the cast of Beetlejuice on Broadway : Rob McClure, Kerry Butler, Leslie Kritzer, Kelvin Moon Loh, Adam Dannheisser and more! Opens April 25 at Winter Garden

Joining the previously announced principal cast of Reeve Carney, André De Shields,
Amber Gray, Eva Noblezada, and Patrick Page in Hadestown will be
Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, and Kay Trinidad as the Fates.
The chorus of Workers will be played by Afra Hines,Timothy Hughes, John Krause,
Kimberly Marable, and Ahmad Simmons.
The full cast will also include swings Malcolm Armwood,
T. Oliver Reid, Jessie Shelton, and Khaila Wilcoxon.

Christopher Burney has been appointed the new artistic director of New York Stage and Film (responsible for Powerhouse season every summer at Vassar) Currently artistic producer at Second Stage, he succeeds Johanna Pfaelzer, who’s been named new artistic director of Berkeley Rep.

The Davenport Theater closed in January after five years. Ken Davenport, the producer who said he named the theater after his grandfather, has told people in the industry that he lost his lease.“It will not be a theater,”  a rep of the landlord told Philip Boro in Broadway Journal. “Maybe a gym.”

Congratulations to Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts, &snfAnijah. Lezama of Brooklyn, Kelly Lukito of Flushing, local recipients of grants/scholarships from The American Theatre Wing’s Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative.

Melissa Errico writing about Open Table, a musical about a family restaurant that she has been spending the last five years helping its creative team Adam Gopnik and David Shire put together, and how she realized the show is about New York City. (with a delicious exchange with Stephen Sondheim.)



In an opinion piece in the New York Times — “I’m Asian-American: Affirmative Action Worked for Me” — playwright Young Jean Lee (Straight White Men, etc.) talks about her getting into Berkeley because of affirmative action, turned her life around. But she also talks about the theater:

“I’ve seen how increasing diversity can cause a field to flourish. The theater world is in the midst of a golden age of playwriting, and this has coincided with a concerted effort by theaters to diversify their programming. The next step is for theaters to produce more work by playwrights who come from low-income backgrounds, as our field is still dominated by the voices of the middle-to-upper classes. To achieve real diversity, I believe that affirmative action should be a holistic process, as it is at Harvard, encompassing class as well as race.”


Rest In Peace

Albert Finney, 82, “angry young man” British stage actor, 2-time Tony nominee (Luther, A Day in the Life of Joe Egg), 5-time Oscar nominee (Erin Brockovich, Under the Volcano, Tom Jones, etc.)

Joseph Sirola, 89, actor and Tony-winning producer.


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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