April is Be Kind to Your Usher Month. Legislating Against The Broadway Body. #Stageworthy News of the Week

April is the kindest month; at least that’s what Playbill president Philip S. Birsh is requesting in a full-page letter in the April edition of Playbill, in which he gently reminds audience members who “have been away from our theatres for some time” of the rules of theater etiquette, such as:

“Treat all theatre staff you see with respect and kindness…”
“Do not sing along with the actors…”
“Stop drinking alcohol immediately if you’re feeling tipsy. Drink some water.”

This is clearly in response to the reported rise in bad behavior among Broadway theatergoers, which some attribute to the aftermath of COVID isolation, and the increased availability in the theaters of alcohol. Reported, that is, but not published in Playbill. Two months ago (as I reported at the time),  Birsh ordered the Playbill article written about the subject taken down from its website, telling the Daily Beast the piece “exaggerated the issue in my opinion” Apparently, his opinion has changed.

It needs be said that most Broadway theatergoers are downright loving — and the problem is not just on Broadway (See below.) April is also the busiest month on Broadway — nine Broadway shows are opening within the next two and a half weeks, to make the deadline to be eligible for Tony Awards for the Broadway 2022-2023 season. Not coincidentally, the Theater Awards season has begun.

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

Sweeney Todd 

Theatergoers wearing “I ❤️ My Josh” t-shirts filled a row of the Lunt-Fontanne the night I attended the fourth Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s darkly comic, horror operetta* about a berserk barber bent on bloody revenge.  Josh Groban is not just a main draw in this revival; it was his idea. He even enlisted Thomas Kail, famed helmsman of “Hamilton,” to direct. This is not the only reason why we can both praise Groban for much of what’s wonderful about this production and blame him for much of what falls short. (Full review)

Tao of Glass 

Philip Glass fell asleep in the middle of the pitch that actor and director Phelim McDermott was making for a theater piece the two could create together. “I’ve bored Philip Glass McDermott says, sounding amazed. “The man who’s put more people to sleep in concert halls across the world than any other composer… and I’ve put him to sleep!”

And right there is a prime example of how McDermott tricks us in “Tao of Glass” into enjoying a show that spends 150 minutes devoted to Philip Glass, much of it with a quartet of musicians performing his endlessly circular music…(full review)

The Week in New York Theater News

Lucille Lortel Award Nominations 2023. Off Broadway’s Best

New York Theater Awards 2023: Guide and Calendar

Learn some of the illustrious (and sometimes less than illustrious) history of each award, and how to tell the difference between the New York Drama Critics Circle and the Outer Critics Circle, the Drama League or the Drama Desk, the Tonys and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (I also throw in a list of playwrights who won the Nobel Prize for Literature)

Playwrights Dominique Morisseau and Jasmine Lee-Jones (seven methods of killing kylie jenner) are the drama winners of the 2023 Windham-Campbell Prize, an annual award from Yale University given for achievement in multiple literary genres. Each will receive $175,000

Stephanie Lexis

A bill currently being considered in the New York City Council would prohibit “discrimination on the basis of a person’s height or weight in opportunities of employment, housing, and access to public accommodation.”  (Q & A about the bill with NY Times City Hall Bureau Chief Emma G Fitzsimmons) Stephanie Lexis, founder of Broadway Body Positivity Project,  believes if it became law, it would “push producers to see a wider pool of applicants, and encourage them to cast outside of the stereotypical Broadway body,” as she told Playbill, “Talent is not limited by body size. If you can believe an actor is a 16th-century king, you can also believe that king is plus size or is a little person.” Check out my review of Ryan Donovan’s new book “Broadway Bodies: A Critical History of Conformity

On Wednesday, marshals  seized Theater 80, which has been in bankruptcy since December ,  locking out owner Lorcan Otway and his wife Genie, and evicting them from the adjoining brownstone home.  Otway’s father bought the building in 1964, and turned it into a 199-seat theater, the William Barnacle Tavern and the Museum of the American Gangster.  (More on the theater, its history, its problems and the fight to keep it alive, in local newspapers EV Grieve and Our Town.)

In HowlRound, Christopher Bannow, who played Jud Fry in the national tour of Daniel Fish’s production of “Oklahoma!” had a different experience than the one the cast received at St.Ann’s Warehouse and then on Broadway. “We had walkouts, of course, but also snickering, jeering, dumbfounded faces, searing reviews, refunds demanded, boos, audience members standing with both thumbs pointed down, vomiting in the balcony….”

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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