Broadway Push and Pull: Into The Woods, The Kite Runner. #Stageworthy news of the week

Like the magnets I collect from each show for my refrigerator, Broadway exerts a pull, but I also felt a push upon my return this past week to see  “Into The Woods” and “The Kite Runner,” the only two shows opening this summer on Broadway. After a month away because of illness, I was struck by the failure of most of the audience to wear masks, despite the current sixth wave of Covid-19,  with its highly contagious BA.5 variant.  Theatergoers have not been required to wear masks since July 1st (and the Broadway League announced last week they won’t be required for August either) but we are certainly permitted to wear them.   My return also reminded me of longstanding complaints about Broadway’s high prices and incomplete accessibility – barriers that only seem to be inevitable.

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

Into The Woods

“Into The Woods,” the musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine currently back on Broadway in a wonderfully cast concert staging directed by Lear deBessonet, has always reminded me of the Fractured Fairy Tales on the old Rocky and Bullwinkle animated TV series – comically irreverent takes on the world’s most familiar fables. That’s not all the musical has on offer, of course. There are some gorgeous songs with deliciously witty lyrics. There are also all the meant-to-be-profound moral lessons for grown-ups attached to the cleverly interconnected stories of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (of Beanstalk fame) and Rapunzel – about how actions have consequences (“wishes come true, not free”), and how “happily” isn’t “ever after” in the real world (or at least certainly not in Act II.) 

But I suspect it’s the universal familiarity of the characters that has made “Into The Woods” one of Sondheim’s most popular and frequently produced musicals…[The audience is] surely primed both out of affection for Sondheim, who died eight months ago, and as an affirmation of the pleasure and power of gathering in person. If the timing of this production enhances its enchantment, the appeal is undeniable. That is largely because of the cast, who bring out the fractured fairy tale humor that I most appreciate about the show while delivering the songs as beautifully as I’ve ever heard them….Read full review

The Kite Runner

….Matthew Spangler’s stage adaptation [of Khaled Hosseini’s 2003 best-selling novel] is faithful to a fault – two faults, really. The story hasn’t been sufficiently rethought as a work of theater: Amir Arison performs not just as Amir the adult and Amir the child, but also as Amir the (wordy, stilted) narrator, depriving the other characters of their own breath, and speeding through so many incidents that it’s hard for the audience to catch ours.  Spangler also faithfully renders aspects of Hosseini’s novel that I had some qualms about when I read it long ago, which now in (the stage) light of a new era have grown into full-blown objections…Read full review

The Week in New York Theater News

: Steven Skybell and Male Ensemble in “To Life” (“Lekhayim” ל ‘חיים)

Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish will return, this time to New World Stages, November 13, 2022 – January 1, 2023, with Steven Skybell again as Tevye. (My 2019 review)

New Queens: Bre Jackson as Catherine of Aragon, Brennyn Lark as Catherine Parr will begin performances in “Six” on August 9 at (what’s still called) the Brooks Atkinson Theater (until it is officially rechristened the Lena Horne in the Fall) Ayla Ciccone-Burton and Holli’ Conway will become Alternates, and Keri Rene Fuller will return as Jane Seymour.

Atlantic Theater Company announced its 2022-23 season. The company will produce five world premieres: Gracie Gardner’s I’m Revolting (directed by Knud Adams), Lloyd Suh’s The Far Country (directed by Eric Ting), Deepa Purohit’s Elyria (directed by Awoye Timpo), Lucas Hnath’s A Simulacrum (directed by Hnath), and Simon Stephens and Mark Eitzel’s musical Cornelia Street (directed by Neil Pepe). 

Lincoln Center will produce Sarah Ruhl’s Becky Nurse of Salem this fall. Rebecca Taichman will direct the dark comedy, which will star Deirdre O’Connell as “a modern-day descendent of accused witch Rebecca Nurse in Salem.” 

Spotlight on Understudies: Jason Forbach from Into the Woods (People)
The article is about how he portrayed the Baker. I saw him as the wolf and Cinderella’s Prince and he was terrific

More on Paradise Square:

‘Paradise Square’: How an Ambitious Broadway Musical Got Overshadowed by Lawsuits, Unpaid Bills and Alleged Bullying (Variety)

More Paradise Square Lawsuit Details Emerge, Including Severed Finger (Playbill)

Theater Blog Roundup: Theater as Risk, and as Gift. Helen Shaw on When NOT to Review

Rest in Peace

Sean Kelly, 81, whose lyrics for the influential 1973 Off Broadway revue National Lampoon’s Lemmings helped launch the careers of John Belushi, Christopher Guest and Chevy Chase.

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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