Happy days are not quite here again, but news this week softened some recent blows: “The Phantom of the Opera” is still closing, but recent weeks have been the highest-grossing in the show’s 35-year history, and so the run has been extended eight weeks, until April 16, 2023. Suzan-Lori Parks’ “Plays for the Plague,” written during the first year of the COVID-19 lockdown, in an unpleasant irony had to shorten its run radically because of an outbreak of COVID-19 in the company; it is now returning to Joe’s Pub in April, with Parks reprising her role.
Also returning: Aaron Tveit to “Moulin Rouge” January 17 – April 10; and “The Wiz” to Broadway in 2024, a reimagined revival with additional material by Amber Ruffin.
NYC Theater Quiz Bah Humbug Edition
December 2022 New York Theater Openings
The Week in New York Reviews
A Beautiful Noise The Neil Diamond Musical
“A Beautiful Noise” is certainly an efficient delivery system for twenty-nine of Neil Diamond’s most popular songs – some of them just snippets in medleys, but “Sweet Caroline” twice — rendered by a cast of some talented performers. (See a Spotify of the cast album). The show apparently aspires, however, to be more than just your basic boomer bio jukebox musical…Neil Diamond must be at least as interesting in real life as Carole King, with whom he shares much in common: They are both prolific and popular octogenarian singer-songwriters who grew up Jewish in Brooklyn. Yet I found “A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical” less engaging than “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” Maybe it’s just a matter of taste, and not only in music. I couldn’t get past all the sequins. Full review
Ain’t No Mo’
“Ain’t No Mo’,” an over-the-top satire that aims to tickle, shock and draw blood, imagines an America in which all Black people are being flown to Africa. But it’s not a direct flight. There are stops at a Black church, an abortion clinic, a TV studio, a mansion, a prison, and finally, at African American Airlines, Gate 1619 (the date of the first Black slaves in the New World.) The gate agent is named Peaches; she is wearing a red pantsuit uniform and flowing pink tresses, and is portrayed by Jordan E. Cooper, who at 27 is making his Broadway debut as both actor and playwright.
“Yessss, we on Broadway, bitch!” Peaches says in the opening voice-over announcement, which includes more than the standard instructions about turning off our cell phones: “If you feel like laughing, you better cackle. If you wanna shout, bitch, shout….”
If the urge to cackle or shout is intermittent, the show and its creator are impressive. What may be most striking about “Ain’t No Mo’” upon seeing it at Broadway’s stately Belasco Theater is how little it has changed since I first caught it Off-Off Broadway five years ago at the Fire This Time Festival, an annual showcase for early career playwrights of African and African American descent. Full review
The Week in New York Theater News
“Once Upon A One More Time” will open at Broadway’s Marquis Theater on June 22,2023, with a first preview on May 13 – after the 2022-2023 Broadway season. The show features the music of Britney Spears threaded through a story in which such fairytale princesses as Cinderella, Snow White and the Little Mermaid are transformed after reading “The Feminine Mystique.” It will be directed and choreographed by Keone and Mari Madrid.
As fellow critics Christian Lewis and Linda Buchwald pointed out in a social media exchange (ok, it was on Twitter), the addition of this musical means there will be three musicals with Britney Spears songs on Broadway (the other two are & Juliet and Moulin Rouge), three with Cinderellas (the other two are Into The Woods, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Bad Cinderella,” which is scheduled for March) and five jukebox musicals on Broadway (assuming Moulin Rouge, A Beautiful Noise, & Juliet, and MJ the Musical all last until May),
Broadway League, Actors’ Equity Reach Tentative Agreement on Contract (Hollywood Reporter)
Courtroom Drama: New Legal Battle Over ‘To Kill a Mockingbird (NY Times)
Three years ago a new Broadway play based on the classic Harper Lee novel tried to prevent regional stagings of an earlier dramatization. Now, the roles are reversed.
A rare recording of a musical by an 18-year-old Stephen Sondheim surfaces (NPR)
New York Times chief theater critic Jesse Green was called out by cast members and the producers of the Broadway show KPOP for his review (Review: In ‘KPOP,’ Korean Pop and Broadway Meet (Too) Cute) Among the critics of the critic: Instagram video from Abraham Lim; letter from producers reprinted in Playbill
The attacks come not long after “A Raisin in the Sun” cast member Tonya Pinkins wrote a 5,000-word “open letter to Jesse Green” blast him for his review of that show. ( Review: This Time, ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ Really Does Explode)
Meanwhile, Washington Post chief theater critic Peter Marks was attacked online for his review of “Downstate” by conservative voices, including U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. (Playbill article)
Erik Jensen Q and A. The Collaborator Beats Death, Makes Broadway Debut
Erik Jensen is making his Broadway debut the same year he suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm that almost killed him. The two are not unrelated, as he explains in the interview below.
In “The Collaboration,” a play by Anthony McCarten that’s scheduled to open on December 20 at MTC’s Samuel J Friedman Theater, Jensen portrays Bruno Bischofberger, the Swiss art dealer who brought together Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Jensen’s Broadway debut feels less like a peak than a new path, for those of us who have followed his decades-long career as the creator with his wife Jessica Blank of such acclaimed, influential documentary theater as “The Exonerated” (about innocent men on Death Row) “The Line” (about medical first responders in the pandemic) and “Coal Country” (survivors of a mining explosion.)…
In the interview, which has been edited for length and clarity, Jensen talks about the three events that changed his life in 2022 – yes, there’s a third event, a surprising one — and about the aftermath of some of his best-known plays, as well as his take both on “The Collaboration” and on his lifelong collaboration with Jessica Blank and now with another member of the family.