This past week, the last Broadway shows of 2021 opened (Flying Over Sunset) and reopened (Dear Evan Hansen, the last of the reopening shows that were shut down by the pandemic.) For all the genuine pleasure and relief that Broadway is back, and the great holiday season cheer embodied by the “Show Globes” filling up Duffy Square, there was no wiping away how strange and awful this year has been. It’s the sort of year when it made perfect sense for reopening night ceremonies at “Dear Evan Hansen” to include “You Will Be Found” sung by the Northwell Health Nurse Choir; for a United State Senator to be dressed like a depressed teenager; and for the show to include 11 understudies and standby actors for a musical with eight characters.
The precaution is not theoretical. Several Broadway shows have had to cancel performances (“Mrs Doubtfire” today and tomorrow, for example) because company members were found to have tested positive for COVID-19.
The Week in New York Theater Reviews:
One is tempted to say that thus Broadway ends the year on a high note. But it’s an artificial high. This is a show built around the slenderest of premises – the documented fact that Cary Grant, Clare Booth Luce and Aldous Huxley each (separately) took LSD in the 1950s…. after sitting through the nearly three hours of this unique fusion of high-minded spiritual contemplation, gossipy biographical tidbits, subtle comedy and fabricated hallucinations all presented in song and dance, I was never completely persuaded that these three famous figures belong in the same musical
“Company” is perfectly timed, sadly….It is also, as it turns out, sublimely entertaining….The production, an import from England directed by Marianne Elliott, cannot be called definitive. Its most attention-getting feature is the switching of the genders of several of the characters, which at its best feels like an interesting thought experiment about the difference in our attitudes towards men and women. Even when the gender switching feels less than completely thought out, the musical proves to be sturdy enough to allow for such noodling around without undermining the essence of the show. It helps that this “Company” also showcases a company of some of the finest actors on Broadway, and several must-see performances – Patti LuPone, yes of course, but also Christopher Fitzgerald and Matt Doyle.
Kimberly and Seth are both misfits, who find out they fit together. The awkward, wry, tacitly sorrowful but explicitly exuberant relationship that slowly develops is the heart of the musical. The droll, touching, beautifully sung performances by the actors who portray them – Victoria Clark, the 62-year-old, Tony-winning Broadway veteran, and Justin Cooley, who at 18 is making an impressive Off-Broadway debut – makes the heart beat sweetly.
But while Jeanine Tesori smoothly incorporates into the story 18 serviceable melodies, paired with David Lindsay-Abaire’s memorable lyrics, the creative team has also made some choices that expand the piece in ways that don’t quite fit with the misfits.
I was initially puzzled as to why a man whose full name is David Yosef Shimon ben Elazar Reuven Alex Halevi Edelman would go to a meeting of white supremacist antisemites — unless he was a stand-up comedian who thought he could get a show out of it. And so he has…Just for Us” leans more toward disparate jokes and funny stories than a focused comic narrative.
Selling Kabul: Left Behind in Afghanistan
a small, claustrophobic story about Taroon, an Afghani man who is holed up in his sister Afiya’s apartment in Kabul, hiding from the Taliban, because he was an interpreter for the U.S. Army… as timely as the drama might be, I think it would be a mistake for theatergoers to rely on “Selling Kabul” as a source of information about Afghanistan or the U.S. involvement there. Rather, it is a twisty drama that benefits from a fine production
West Side Story: 7 changes in 2021 Spielberg/Kushner movie remake
The remake of “West Side Story,” the tragic story of lovers from rival New York street gangs, which opens in movie theaters today, is director Steven Spielberg’s first movie musical. Spielberg is largely faithful to the 1961 movie, which was largely faithful to the 1957 Broadway musical, which was not all that faithful to William Shakespeare’s 1595 play “Romeo and Juliet,” which the fiercely talented foursome of Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim adapted to contemporary times. But the 2021 movie does have some noticeable changes from the 1961 movie, which won ten Academy Awards and is number two on the American Film Institute’s list of Greatest Movie Musicals (Number 1 is “Singing in the Rain.”) Many of the changes are undeniable improvements; some of them are just different; a few require at the very least a little mental adjustment:
The Week in New York Theater News
The 41 Broadway theaters are requiring vaccinations for children ages 5 -11 years old, effective December 14, 2021, following Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement of a change in guidelines for indoor events in the city. Updated Covid-19 protection policies from the the Broadway League.
“Diana the Musical” is closing December 19, after 33 regular and 16 preview performance. (It continues on Netflix.)
A limited number of $35 lottery tickets are available for MJ, the Michael Jackson musical, starting today. Now in previews, the musical is scheduled to open on February 1.
An adaptation of the popular 1943 novella “The Little Prince” has announced a March 17 opening at Broadway Theater — the 54th show with an opening or reopening date in the Broadway 2021-2022 season.
“Sidney,” a new play based on the Sidney Poitier’s memoir, The Measure of a Man, is aiming for Broadway. It is to be written by Charles Randolph-Wright (director of the current “Trouble in Mind”) and directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson (who brought his solo show “Lackawanna Blues” to Broadway this season) No timeline announced.
The Delacorte theater, home for Shakespeare in the Park since 1962, will be rebuilt starting in 2022 a $110 million project that was delayed because of the pandemic. “The bulk of the changes are meant to increase accessibility for audiences and stage access for artists living with disabilities; the seating will also be replaced to increase audience comfort. It’s expected to still hold around the same amount of seats as now (1,872), but there will be more wheelchair accessible locations.” (Gothamist)
The skin has been put in place for the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center, at the World Trade Center, informally called the PAC. Originally slated to open in September, 2021 (the twentieth anniversary of 9/11), it now aims for a completion sometime in 2023