Fall Previews. #Stageworthy News of the Week

Summer officially ended with Lea Michele singing “My Man” at the curtain call for the final performance of “Funny Girl” (see video below), a song introduced by Fanny Brice in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1921 that a century later has some uncomfortable lyrics.

“And what’s the difference if I say
I’ll go away
When I know I’ll come back on
My knees someday?”

It would be churlish, as well as inaccurate, to claim that Broadway is on its knees. But, as Fall officially begins, what to make of the sudden huge surge in popularity of my report from sixteen months ago of critical comments about  the state of Broadway by a revered member of the community (Broadway Producer Emanuel Azenberg: “We’ve chased away an audience.”

Much is riding on theater lovers coming back for the new season, which this week is being widely previewed, including by me:

Fall New York Theater Preview: 10 that are “can’t miss” (though not yet must see”)

Peter Marks in the Washington Post on on high stakes as theaters seek to lure audiences back

Jesse Green in The New York Times on a season of post-mortem collaborations

Angelina Villa-Clarke in Forbes on why Broadway is still a must for visitors

September 2023 New York Theater Openings

End of Summer Theater Quiz 2023

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

How To Steal An Election 

With the subtitle “A Dirty Politics Musical,” the York’s latest revival certainly has a timely subject, and its fifteen musical numbers are an eclectic mix of old campaign ditties and original songs – ballads, Sousa-type marches, waltzes, jazzy tunes — by Oscar Brand, who was a folksinger-songwriter and celebrated radio host. But “How to Steal An Election” is largely a historic curiosity — a polite way of saying dated. Full Review 


The Tempest 

 Renée Elise Goldsberry’s star turn as Prospero helps make this entertaining new musical adaptation of “The Tempest” thrilling in some of the same ways as the musical for which she won a Tony Award, “Hamilton.” Like that Broadway juggernaut, the Public Works production can be enjoyed for the commanding performance of its ear-opening score, composed by relative newcomer Benjamin Velez, and for the way the casting flips a familiar story Full Review 

Book: What Was Shakespeare Really Like?

For his ninetieth birthday, Sir Stanley Wells, considered one of the world’s greatest authorities on William Shakespeare, was asked to deliver four lectures to answer the following questions:

What was Shakespeare like?

How did he write his plays?

What does the body of his work tell us about his personality?

What made him laugh?

…Wells roots his picture of the playwright and poet in evidence and logic, and he’s too erudite to be anything but modest in his conjectures – which is much the appeal of this book.

The Week in New York Theater News

Physical Therapists for Broadway touring shows vote to unionize (Deadline)

The Labor Play in a Time of Labor Strikes

On a Labor Day when Hollywood writers and actors have been on strike for months now,  there is a fitting if startling answer this year to the question I ask every Labor Day, which is a legal holiday created by Congress in 1884 to celebrate not the American barbecue but the American labor union movement: Where are the American plays about labor — about workers, or workplaces, or unions? 

The workers I’ve seen depicted this past year on New York stages have been arts workers….This past season’s focus on entertainment workers might just be a coincidence. What’s clear is that there has been a shift – on stage, and in the nation – in the attitudes towards workers.

The Making of the Perelman Performing Arts Center (The PAC), which opens September 19: An architect critic’s appraisal (New York Magazine) – with a little theater criticism thrown in:  “the Perelman’s inaugural programming — which ranges from a global-music festival on the theme of refuge to an evening with the satin-voiced Mr. Broadway, Brian Stokes Mitchell — does not suggest an entity confident in its vision.”

The Making of Stephen Sondheim’s Final Musical, an oral history conducted by Frank Rich (New York Magazine)

In Memoriam

Tina Howe, 85, playwright best known for “Coastal Disturbances,” “Painting Church and “Pride’s Crossing.” Her plays “have multidimensional female characters of a type that were not often seen when she started out in the 1970s.”

Nathan Louis Jackson, 44, playwright of  Broke-ology, The Last Black Play and others, and screenwriter.

Frannie Lee, 81, Obie and Tony-winning costume and set designer best known for her work on Hal Prince’s Sweeney Todd and Candide, 

Jimmy Buffett, 76,  the singer, songwriter, author, sailor and entrepreneur whose music was used for the Broadway musical “Escape to Margaritaville”

The Week’s Theater Video

The curtain call for the final performance of “Funny Girl” ends in a surprise:  Lea Michele sang Fanny Brice’s hit ‘My Man’ (which had been cut from the musical.) This is exactly what Barbra Streisand did in her final performance of the musical.

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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