It’s been a busy week for New York theater. See the seven reviews below, from “MJ” on Broadway and “The Tap Dance Kid” to “Shhhh” and “The Hang” downtown; and not one but two shows adapted into operas (by the same composer); not one but two serious works about antisemitism. Another big Broadway opening night is scheduled this week. But Broadway Opening Night doesn’t mean what it used to, and, given the current low occupancy of Broadway theaters (just 19 out of 41), and the low total attendance (about 74 percent), despite all the deals out there, the real excitement for many theater lovers seems to be in looking ahead. Thanks to the shuffling of schedules, and new announcements, there are no more Broadway openings until late in March (that’s “Plaza Suite”), but then FIFTEEN shows scheduled to open or reopen on Broadway in April:
The Week in Theater Reviews
a play written, directed and starring Clare Barron that seems designed to make theatergoers uncomfortable… a collection of vignettes connected largely by a theme – the pains and pleasures of the body, and the emotional consequences of those sensations…I’d like to support a playwright of such obvious talent, even when the play is as disjointed as this one, and the shocks in it so often feel gratuitous…
The best thing to be said about these two new theatrical works is also the worst thing – that their exploration of antisemitism is well-timed and necessary.
- Prayer for the French Republic
an ambitious if imperfect original play by Joshua Harmon [tells] the story of one fictional family in France….a family that spends its Passover Seder mealtime…“one-quarter eating, three quarters arguing.
- The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
a new opera adapted from the same novel by Giorgio Bassani that Italian director Vittorio De Sica turned into the 1970 Oscar winning movie. …it establishes the casual antisemitism that helps explain how the Holocaust could happen in Italy (as elsewhere.)…a main strength of this adaptation: It eschews subtlety for clarity and force.
“I wanna keep this about my music,” Michael Jackson (Myles Frost) says near the start of “MJ The Musical.” And that’s what this show..certainly does: some three dozen songs presented in 135 minutes…, “MJ” [is also[‘ telling a story…written by Lynn Nottage, but there is just so far even somebody like Nottage can go when “MJ” is “Produced by Special Arrangement with the Michael Jackson Estate”
The Hang is terrific entertainment. It is a jazz opera, performed by a wondrous nine-member ensemble and versatile eight-piece band… It’s a pageant of dazzling drag couture…It’s an exercise in excess, a celebration of queerness, a downtown party welcoming us all back… But “The Hang” is billed as the final hours in the life of Socrates, as imagined by instigator, lyricist, librettist and star Taylor Mac. That’s harder to embrace.
A young Black girl named Emma wants to be a lawyer – prescient for a Broadway musical that debuted in 1983; that would make the character just about the right age for the next Justice on the Supreme Court. That is the closest to relevance in this hoary musical. Luckily, relevance isn’t everything. Nearly everybody in this large and limber cast [tap dances], spectacularly
Lynn Nottage collaborates with composer Ricky Ian Gordon to turn her lovely 18-year-old play about a lonely seamstress into a contemporary opera…expertly done, effectively sung, and superbly acted, both the principals and the ensemble. Catherine Zuber’s costumes are stars in their own right….But “Intimate Apparel” didn’t take off for me until Act II…I had admired [it] – until the scenes between Esther and Mr. Marks.. [when] they slowly, subtly, impossibly, fall in love. That’s when I too fell in love. And it’s not just Esther who had her heart broken
The Week in New York Theater News
Broadway Week is now Broadway Month and a Half. The 2-for-1 ticket deal to 15 Broadway shows has been extended through Feb 27.
Off Broadway Week is now on sale. Seventeen shows available for 2-for-1 tickets, performances Feb 14-27.
Hangmen is returning to Broadway — scheduled to open April 21. The macabre comedy by Martin McDonagh had started preview performances in March 2020, but after the shutdown, the producers announced it was not returning. They’ve changed their minds. (My review of Hangmen when it was Off-Broadway.)
“Funny Girl” completes its cast. Beanie Feldstein, Ramin Karimloo, Jared Grimes and winner Jane Lynch will be joined by Peter Francis James as Florenz Ziegfeld, Ephie Aardema as Emma/Mrs. Nadler, Debra Cardona as Mrs. Meeker, Toni DiBuono as Mrs. Strakosh, Martin Moran as Tom Keeney, Julie Benko as Fanny Brice Standby, and an acting company that includes Amber Ardolino, Daniel Beeman, Colin Bradbury, Kurt Thomas Csolak, Leslie Donna Flesner, Afra Hines, Masumi Iwai, Aliah James, Jeremiah James, Danielle Kelsey, Stephen Mark Lukas, Alicia Hadiya Lundgren, John Thomas Manzari, Liz McCartney, Katie Mitchell, Justin Prescott, Mariah Reives, and Leslie Blake Walker.
The revival of Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite,” the only Broadway show scheduled to open in March, has completed its cast: Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker will be joined by Danny Bolero as The Waiter, Molly Ranson as Jean McCormick/Mimsey Hubley, and Eric Wiegand as The Bellhop/Borden Eisler. Michael McGrath and Erin Dillyo will standby for Broderick and Parker. Laurie Veldheer and Cesar J. Rosado will be understudies.
The Public Theater’s 60th anniversary #FreeShakespeareinthePark season this summer will present Danai Gurira in the title role (!) of Richard III, directed by Robert O’Hara (director of “Slave Play” and the current reimagined production of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” The second production will be the return of Shaina Taub’s musical adaptation of “As You Like It.” Specific dates, complete casts, etc. to be announced.
Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium will reopen in March after two years with either free or “choose what you pay events all Spring long.” (minimum $5) Lincoln Center is also continuing its “Lincoln Center at Home” digital theater presentations.
“Previously undisclosed data about the financial performance of individual Broadway shows reveal that the fundamental modern economics of the industry, in which big brands dominate and adventurous new works struggle to break through, were reinforced, rather than upended, as the industry reopened last fall.” (NY Times)