Diva Divulgence. What Broadway Could Be. More Ham4Ham. #Stageworthy News of the Week

“Let’s celebrate I’m here. Let’s celebrate I’m anywhere these days,” the 95-year-old cabaret singer Marilyn Maye said over the weekend while singing Broadway standards at 54 Below – jazz-inflected crooning and belting, some bluesy growls. She even gave an occasional high kick.

Broadway, too, is still kicking. (see below: the statistics released this week for the 2022-2023 Broadway season.)  If Maye has never performed on Broadway – except for the Broadway in Kansas City – her concert inspired many thoughts about the Great Bright Way. Broadway has been a persistent showcase for enduring talent, of course, but what the concert represented for me was not so much what Broadway has been, as what it could be.

Maye performed live on stage in person and simultaneously online. Like many other venues – but not Broadway – 54 Below began to livestream shows during the pandemic shutdown. Unlike many other venues, it has continued doing so, scheduling more than a half-dozen for next month.

 54 Below recently transformed from a commercial establishment to a non-profit organization, in order (according to one of its owners) to meet both economic challenges and artistic ambitions.

Six of the 41 Broadway theaters are already non-profit. As anxiety over the fate of Broadway looms over a countdown to the Tonys that is usually full of celebration and anticipation, one wonders: Will economic necessity or artistic ambition spur more non-profit transitions in the future?

Manhattanhenge will happen tonight, as it did last night — two of the four days this year when the sun sets in perfect alignment along the city’s broad west-east avenues — but you can see it every night in Beowulf Boritt’s award-winning set in the musical “New York, New York.”

The Week in New York Theater Awards

2023 Chita Rivera Award Winners: A Beautiful Noise, Bob Fosse’s Dancin’, New York, New York

Watch Sean Hayes, Jodie Comer, Lindsay Mendez et al accept their OCC awards

The 2023 Regional Theatre Tony Award will be awarded to Los Angeles’ Pasadena Playhouse, which was on the verge of shutting down in 2010

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

Monsoon Wedding 

The swirl of colorful saris and blast of Vishal Bhardwaj’s pulsating Indian music enlivens this stage adaptation of Mira Nair’s acclaimed 2001 movie, offering a confusion of characters who have gathered together in Delhi for a traditional wedding between two young people who have never met.

King James 

King James” could be viewed not just as a comedy about two basketball bros, but as a meditation on the nature of fandom, the vicissitudes of friendship, even the limitations of heterosexual male intimacy. Or not. While I’m long-time fan of nearly everybody involved – especially playwright Rajiv Joseph , director Kenny Leon, and actor Chris Perfetti – each has been central to other work that I found more exciting. Full Review 

Primary Trust 

The appealing familiarity of the small town life depicted in “Primary Trust,” the bonhomie of the characters and the quirkiness of Eboni Booth’s script, all are largely enhanced by director Knud Adams’s production and by a couple of superb performances, including William Jackson Harper’s. But by the end, there was too much that felt off about this intentionally feel-good play for me to feel as good about it as I would have liked. Full Review 

Book: Musical Theatre for Dummies

If anybody should write a Dummies book about musical theater, it’s hard to think of a better choice than Seth Rudetsky…But should anybody write a Dummies book about musical theater?

Unlike other Dummies guides, the book that Rudetsky has put together, for all its obvious effort at being entertaining, is arguably more intimidating than its subject. After all, you don’t actually have to know anything about musical theater in order to enjoy a show; you just need a ticket. But the unavoidable takeaway from this cornucopia of cursory history, anecdote, brief analysis,  lists, tips and lore is that gaining mastery over this art form is far less straightforward or attainable than, say, learning html. 

The Week in New York Theater News

Statistics for the 2022-2023 Broadway season,  released by  The Broadway League: 40 new productions and 35 continuing productions drew a total attendance of 12,283,399 and generated $1,577,586,897 in grosses. The attendance is lower than each of the last five pre-pandemic years 2014-19): As Playbill assesses it:  This season’s figures reflect a drop of 16.83% for attendance and 13.76% for grosses from those totals, drops that are surprisingly small given the level of impact COVID-19 had on the industry. They’re also, unsurprisingly, a giant leap from last season’s numbers, which did not even crack $1 billion in grosses and saw attendance under seven million thanks to an incomplete season that was still suffering a large amount of performance cancellations.”

Playwrights helped save the Tony Awards, by lobbying their WGA colleagues; they’re screenwriters too. “Most playwrights are W.G.A. members, because they have to make a living & get health insurance.”(NY Times)

Theater Blog Roundup: AI and Theater? Award Season! Sondheim!!

Deep dives into specific Sondheim shows bookend this theater blog roundup, which also features an old radio broadcast and a comparison of Huck Finn to Hamlet. Much here attests to theater bloggers attachment to the past…even as we look ahead — most notably Onstage Blog’s Ashley Griffin to the threat of Artificial Intelligence, but also Ken Davenport to his producing of “Harmony” on Broadway, and others to the season’s theater awards, which simultaneously look backwards (savoring the evanescent moments onstage) and forwards (who will win.)

Steven Spielberg is pitching Tom Stoppard’s play “Leopoldstadt” as a T V series (Deadline)

Leopoldstadt has received many theater awards this season so far (Outer Critics Circle, New York Drama Critics Circle and Drama League awards) and six Tony nominations. “It doesn’t make me think, ‘Oh, I can stop now. Terrific. Hooray.’ It makes me think, “Oh, I really should pull myself together and get to work,” the 85-year-old playwright tells The Hollywood Reporter 

Why Actress Sarah Bernhardt Was the First Modern Celebrity (Smithsonian)

Katharine Hepburn had stage fright, seeing the audience as her “natural enemy” and repeatedly seeking reassurance of her talent from those closest to her. (The Guardian)

In Memoriam

“People think my life has been tough. But I think it has been a wonderful journey” — Tina Turner, 83. While Broadway was not one of the many world stages on which the singer and dancer performed, her life story was turned into a Tony-nominated musical

Robin Wagner, 89, Tony winning set designer of the Producers

This Week’s Theater Video

#Ham4Ham performances from Parade, Some Like It Hot, Shucked, introduced by stars of Leopoldstadt, Fat Ham, and The Thanksgiving Play

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

Leave a Reply