It’s easier to feel that theater is bouncing back during such a busy week on Broadway and beyond (especially for critics trying to catch up on shows that opened earlier whose runs have been extended.) There is some evidence to back up that feeling. If Broadway attendance is still lower than 2019, it’s better than last year, according to the Wall Street Journal, which also reports that the theater district has just seen “its 180th business opening since the pandemic, surpassing the 179 closures that resulted from Covid-19.”
Also apparently on the rise is hope — because it has to be. “Everbody’s a little depressed, we’re all a lot afraid about what the hell’s gonna happen on the other side of the pandemic,” Bianca Sams, a member of the collective The Kilroys, told American Theatre Magazine. “How do you continue with that, except hope? What’s going to keep theater alive is not some institution—it’s the people.”
That’s why The Kilroys, famous for their annual list recommending plays by women, trans and non-binary playwrights have this year come up with the Kilroys Web, which is a website that presents a web of people involved with the theater championing both underproduced work and one another. The information is presented in list form at the bottom of their page.
In the critic’s corner below, we hear from the New York Times’s Jesse Green on his routine and the San Francisco Chronicle’s Lily Janiak on whether her routine should change when so many theater companies continue to struggle.
The Week in New York Theater Reviews
Director Maria Friedman doesn’t eliminate what’s off-putting about “Merrily We Roll Along”; instead she directs our attention to what’s best about it. She does this primarily by casting the main characters with three talented and appealing performers… Sondheim saw the primary themes of the musical as “the souring of ideals and the erosion of friendship,” and he expresses these musically again and again in novel, clever and yes tuneful ways Full Review
“Gutenberg! The Musical!” is deliberately bad – that’s the central joke of it – but much of what’s bad about it isn’t deliberate. The score is largely unmemorable. The premise makes little sense. There are some funny lines, but no more than an hour’s worth of laughs in a show that’s a two-hour, two-person vaudeville routine that becomes tedious. There is also one joke that is almost shockingly unfunny. Full Review
“(pray)” might feel at first like a theatrically heightened version of a traditional gospel church service, with church ladies in their Sunday finest preaching and praying, clapping and swaying, and above all, belting out some glorious hymns — all in a theater redesigned with church pews and imitation stained glass windows. But there are signs from the get-go that something else is going on…. the ambiguous injection of a (political?) point into what’s promised as a spiritual experience doesn’t completely work… Full Review
Swing State” is something of a catalogue of sadness and loss, its four human characters as devastated in their own ways as the flora and fauna around them. Yet, for all the trauma, I’m not being sarcastic when I call Rebecca Gilman’s play something close to a ray of sunshine. That can be the effect of a well-made play directed sensitively, solidly designed, and performed by a pitch perfect cast. Full Review
“Job” begins with a woman in her twenties pointing a gun at a male therapist in his sixties. Why? That’s not fully revealed until the end of the therapy session, a climax that’s so odious and implausible that it thrusts the two-character play into the horror genre – and undermines what I found worthwhile about it. …Some of what we’re witnessing may just be happening in Jane’s mind. Or maybe sometimes Loyd’s too. The play is often both dark and cloudy. Full Review
The Week in New York Theater News
“Here We Are,” the new musical from David Ives and Stephen Sondheim, which was originally to run through January 7 at the Shed, has been extended through January 21, 2024. The production officially opens on Sunday, October 22.
Roberta Pereira, the Brazilian-born executive director of the Playwrights Realm, an Off Broadway theater company devoted to early-career playwrights, will become the executive director of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, which is home to more than eight million items relating to music, theater and dance. (NY Times)
Shucked, the corny, joke-filled Broadway musical that won Alex Newell a Tony, will close at the Nederlander on January 14, 2024, having played 28 preview and 327 regular performances
Yes, the Under the Radar Festival will happen, January 5-21 2024 — 16 shows at 12 venues — supported by independent NYC theaters including La MaMa, Lincoln Center Theater, Mabou Mines, St. Ann’s Warehouse, Theater for a New Audience, but not the Public Theater, its host for 17 years.
Hadestown has found its new Orpheus: It’s Jordan Fisher,, who starts November 20. This will be his fourth Broadway show. (The photo is during the curtain call after his last performance in Dear Evan Hansen.)
Encores! Series casts:
Joining Sutton Foster as Princess Winifred the Woebegone in Once Upon a Mattress (Jan 24 – Feb 4) is Michael Urie as Prince Dauntless.
The cast of Jelly’s Last Jam (Feb 21 – Mar 3) includes Billy Porter as the Chimney Man, Joaquina Kalukango as Anita, and 1992 original cast members Mamie Duncan-Gibbs, Stephanie Pope Lofgren, and Allison M. Williams, who will reprise their roles as the Hunnies.
Closing out the 30th Encores! series is Titanic (Jun 12 – 23) featuring Bonnie Milligan as Alice Beane.
Times Square Goes From Deserted to Bustling (Wall Street Journal)
The entertainment district recently recorded its 180th business opening since the pandemic, surpassing the 179 closures that resulted from Covid-19 turning one of the U.S.’s most heavily trafficked districts into a ghost town. …Crime in Times Square remains below 2019 levels, despite issues involving people suffering from mental illness and drug use, said Tom Harris, president of the Times Square Alliance,..Broadway ticket sales and attendance this year are up from last year, although still lower than in early October of 2019, according to the Broadway League.
“I approach theater criticism as a form of reporting,” said Green, who has reviewed nearly 1,000 shows over his decade-long career as a critic. His reporting reflects his feelings — his connection with the show being staged in front of him.
“That’s the fun of reviewing,” he told me.
Critics generally attend one of a few press performances, which occur before a show’s official opening night. Green sees the first one he can so that he has ample time to write his review, which usually comes out on opening night.
What responsibility do critics bear when a theater company closes?
By Lily Janiak, San Francisco Chronicle
I ask myself whether, as so many theater companies grapple with continuing pandemic-related challenges, I should reconceive my role. What ought arts criticism look like when the art can feel like it’s barely hanging on?
Steven Lutvak, 64, composer of the Tony-winning musical “A Gentleman’sGuide to Love and Murder”
Alan Eisenberg, 88, longest-serving executive director of Actors Equity Association
Rudy Perez, 93, pioneering choreographer of post-modern dance, one of the alumni of Judson Dance Theater, a short-lived but influential experimental collective in Greenwich Village.