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Best of Broadway in Bryant Park 2017: Rachelle Ann Go, Andy Karl, Betsy Wolfe

Below are the six most popular videos I shot of the performances during the six weekly concerts this 17th summer of Broadway in Bryant Park.

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The Boss on Broadway. RIP Barbara Cook. Bye Great Comet, Bandstand. Welcome Back Steve Martin, Lea Salonga.Week in NY Theater

 

This has been the week from Hell both in the larger world and in the world of New York theater, but for theater fans also a little bit of Heaven, with the announcements of new shows, new casts, Broadway debuts, some welcome returns — and a community standing together.

Enter contest here  to win two free tickets to Bandstand by answering: What was the most underrated show you’ve ever seen on a New York stage? 

Week in New York Theater Reviews

The Terms of My Surrender

“The Terms of My Surrender” is not just an anti-Trump screed. It is also an oddly eclectic mix of sharp stand-up comedy routine, sketchy sketch comedy, memoir, parody political rally, activist exhortation, parody game show, actual talk show, prank call show, even a strip-tease (don’t ask, I won’t tell – except to say that Moore has an un-credited supporting cast.)

In format, Michael Moore’s live show has little in common with his funny but focused documentaries about specific issues,…It’s more like a scattershot variety show…But the puckish sense of humor will be enough for most of his fans

The Government Inspector

The vain, reckless son of a rich man is suddenly thrust into power by a venal group of citizens marked by their “ugliness, stupidity, greed, cowardice, corruption and sheer unpleasantness.” That’s the premise, more or less, of Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 play “The Government Inspector,” as interpreted by Red Bull Theater’s broad, bawdy production.

What saves this play from a depressing relevance is the phenomenal physical clowning by Michael Urie

Week in New York Theater News

Barbara Cook, 89

 

Bruce Springsteen will make his Broadway debut this fall with “Springsteen on Broadway,” a solo show at the Walter Kerr Theater, for five performances a week from October 3 through November 26.

“I wanted to do some shows that were as personal and as intimate as possible. I chose Broadway for this project because it has the beautiful old theaters which seemed like the right setting for what I have in mind. In fact, with one or two exceptions, the 960 seats of the Walter Kerr Theatre is probably the smallest venue I’ve played in the last 40 years. My show is just me, the guitar, the piano and the words and music. Some of the show is spoken, some of it is sung. It loosely follows the arc of my life and my work.”  He will read from his recently published autobiography, “Born to Run.”

Tickets for “Springsteen on Broadway” will go on sale August 30 at 10am ET exclusively through Ticketmaster Verified Fan®. “This unique fan-first technology levels the playing field to combat bots and get real tickets into the hands of fans who intend to go to the event.”

The Great Comet to Close September 3. Could it have been saved?

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Amy Schumer and Keegan-Michael Key will be making their Broadway debuts in a new play by Steve Martin, “Meteor Shower,” which will also star Laura Benanti and Alan Tudy, and open November 29th.

“It’s a hot night in Ojai, California, and Corky (Amy Schumer) and her husband Norm (Alan Tudyk) are having another couple over for dinner. But Laura (Laura Benanti) and Gerald (Keegan-Michael Key) aren’t looking for a casual evening of polite small talk with new friends. Eventually, the two couples find themselves in a marital free-fall matched in velocity and peril only by the smoldering space rocks tearing through the sky.”

Bandstand to Close September 17

Errol And Fidel

New York Musical Festival Awards for Excellence 2017

Freedom Riders

“Time and the Conways” will star Elizabeth McGovern as “Mrs. Conway,” Steven Boyer as “Ernest,” Anna Camp as “Hazel,” Gabriel Ebert as “Alan,” Charlotte Parry as “Kay,” and Matthew James Thomas as “Robin,” with Anna Baryshnikov as “Carol,” Brooke Bloom as “Madge,” Alfredo Narciso as “Gerald,” and Cara Ricketts as “Joan.”

In “Escape to Margaritaville,” the Jimmy Buffett musical, Paul Alexander Nolan will lead the company as Tully, and will be joined by Alison Luff as Rachel, Lisa Howard as Tammy, Eric Petersen as Brick, Rema Webb as Marley, Don Sparks as J.D, Andre Ward as Jamal, along with Matt Allen, Tessa Alves, Sara Andreas, Marjorie Failoni, Steven Good, Angela Grovey, Albert Guerzon, Keely Hutton, Justin Keats, Mike Millan, Justin Mortelliti, Ryann Redmond, Ian Michael Stuart, and Brett Thiele.

Theater for a New Audience presents Adrienne Kennedy’s first new play in 9 years, He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box, Jan 17–Feb 11 2018

Set in Georgia & NYC in 1941,
this new work braids together
the indignities of Jim Crow,
rising Nazism, sexual hypocrisy,
Christopher Marlowe,
and the lingering shadow of
a terrible crime.

 

 

 

Watch Bette Midler interview

 

 

 

The Government Inspector Review: Michael Urie Triumphs Once Again, as Venal Bureaucrat

 

The vain, reckless son of a rich man is suddenly thrust into power by a venal group of citizens marked by their “ugliness, stupidity, greed, cowardice, corruption and sheer unpleasantness.” That’s the premise, more or less, of Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 play “The Government Inspector,” as interpreted by Red Bull Theater’s broad, bawdy production.

What saves this play from a depressing relevance is the phenomenal physical clowning by Michael Urie.

Michael Urie entered into pop culture consciousness as the catty fashion editor’s assistant Marc St. James in the TV series Ugly Betty a decade ago, but the Juilliard graduate has proven with each successive New York stage role that he was born for theater — The Temperamentals, How to Succeed in Business, Homos or Everyone in America, Show for Days, and especially Buyer and Cellar, the play by Jonathan Tolin in which he plays every part, including that of Barbra Streisand.

Urie is certainly not by himself in “The Government Inspector.” Every one of the 14-member is positively vaudevillian in their portrayals, a testament not only to their own talents but to that of director Jesse Berger. But I was struck by Urie’s singular gift for physical comedy, which I don’t remember seeing from him before — gracefully and athletically bumbling around the stage drunk or suicidal, or full of lust or greed.

Urie portrays Ivan Alexandreyevich Hlestakov, a drunken, whoring wastrel who was fired from his job as a low-level bureaucrat and travels through two-bit towns in 19th century Russia spending his father’s money. The officials and administrators of the particular town in which he is at present visiting get the false intelligence that he is a Government Inspector rooting out corruption and incompetence. They do all they can to win his favor – they wine him, dine him and incessantly bribe him.

The school principal uses as bribe money what he was going to use to buy new books for the school board meeting, but he becomes philosophical: “They can burn old books just as easy.”

The townspeople are even dumber than they are corrupt – it’s a town, as the mayor’s wife points out, “where people eat soup with their hands.” The wife (portrayed by the extravagantly bedecked and hilarious Mary Testa) thinks herself above the rubes with whom she is forced to associate: “Mine was a very cultured upbringing. We had a book, and my mother whistled.”

Her husband the mayor (Michael McGrath at the performance I saw, since replaced) is certainly dumb – given the ceremonial hat to wear, he puts on the hatbox instead – but he may be the only one even more cruel and corrupt. Before he curries favor with the false inspector, his calendar for the day (as read by a minion) consisted of: “Evicted the corporal’s widow. Had the corporal’s widow jailed for vagrancy. Flogged the corporal’s widow.”

Their daughter Marya, as Hlestakov puts it, “talks like she wears a chastity belt, but she acts like she knows a lot of locksmiths.” Her mother chastises her for her blunt language. “Men don’t like a woman with a tongue like yours” she says.

“Oh, really? Ask around.”

Such banter is courtesy of the 2008 adaptation by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, which is so consistently funny that he’s excused for adding a twist at the end that doesn’t make very much sense. After all, so little in the world makes much sense these days that The Government Inspector feels almost as much documentary as farce.

The Government Inspector is on stage until August 20, 2017.

Tickets and details

Ticket Giveaway: Bandstand

Bandstand 11

Win two tickets to see Bandstand for free.  I liked this show, about a 1940’s swing band made up of World War II veterans, for its thrilling choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, who won his third Tony for it (after In The Heights and Hamilton); its catchy, beat-happy original score that pays homage to the big band era of Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington; and for its pitch-perfect cast, led by Corey Cott and Laura Osnes, many of whom play their own musical instruments, backed by a swinging 13-member band.

They announced earlier this week that the musical will close on September 17, 2017, having played 24 previews and 166 regular performances  I think the show was underrated, and I am delighted to be able to offer a pair of tickets to it.

To enter the contest for the tickets, just answer this question:

What was the most underrated show you’ve ever seen on a New York stage? 

How was it underrated…and why?

The Rules

  1. Please put your answer in the comments at the bottom of this blog post, because I will choose the winner at random, using Random.org, based on the order of your reply, not its content.
  2.  But you must answer the question, complete with explanation and description, or your entry will not be approved for submission.
  3. This contest ends Wednesday August 16, 2017 at midnight Eastern Time, and I will make the drawing no later than noon the next day. You must respond within 12 hours or I will pick another winner.’

Update: You must pick an underrated show.  Please explain how it’s been underrated, not just why you liked it.

The winner will be given two tickets to a weeknight performance of their choosing, subject to availability.

Please sign up to my New York Theater Facebook page

Michael Moore The Terms of My Surrender: Review, Pics, Videos

“The only hope until we kick him out of office is to discombobulate him,” Michael Moore says near the beginning of his playful, pointed and partisan one-man show

..“The Terms of My Surrender” is not just an anti-Trump screed. It is also an oddly eclectic mix of sharp stand-up comedy routine, sketchy sketch comedy, memoir, parody political rally, activist exhortation, parody game show, actual talk show, prank call show, even a strip-tease (don’t ask, I won’t tell – except to say that Moore has an un-credited supporting cast.)

In format, Michael Moore’s live show has little in common with his funny but focused documentaries about specific issues,…It’s more like a scattershot variety show…But the puckish sense of humor will be enough for most of his fans

Read the full review on DC Theatre Scene

 

Four brief excerpts from the show:

 

 

 

 

 

Great Comet to Close September 3. Could It Have Been Saved?

“Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” will close September 3, 2017 on Broadway, having played 32 previews and 336 regular performances — a journey that began at the small, experimental Off Broadway theater Ars Nova in 2012, and traveled to site-specific tents before graduating to the Great White Way.

Plans are afoot for a national tour, during 2019 at the earliest

The timing of the announcement provokes some tough questions:

Could the casting of Mandy Patinkin have saved it?

Did the backlash over his casting in support of doom the show?

How essential is a star for an innovative show to survive on Broadway?

Click on any photographs by Chad Batka or Jonathan Mandell to see them enlarged.

 

After Josh Groban left his starring role as Pierre in The Great Comet in July, the producers cast Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan, one of the original cast members of Hamilton, to take on the role. Ticket sales went down. In the last week in which Josh Groban performed, ticket grosses exceeded $1.4 million; in the week after, under $900,000; it rose only slightly after Oak took over on July 11th.  This is still more than the show costs each week, but not enough to pay back investors. In response, two weeks later,  Mandy Patinkin was asked to assume the role for three weeks,  cutting Oak’s run to August 13th — but reportedly with the understanding that he would return after Patinkin’s run.

Most publications hurrahed Patinkin’s return to Broadway after 17 years. But Broadway Black observed: “…the abrupt replacement of [Oak’s} role to boost ticket sales raises questions about how Black actors are valued and supported within Broadway.”


Prominent voices such as Cynthia Errivo agreed on social media, and two days later, Patinkin backed out of the show, saying  “I would never accept a role knowing it would harm another actor.”  But Oak said he would keep the new date of August 13th as his final performance.

“So sorry to have missed the racial optics of it,” Great Comet creator Dave Malloy wrote. But he said sales were “catastrophically low.”

Insiders maintain that the controversy killed the chance of getting a star replacement — who would want to get tainted by the racial politics? — and argued that Malloy’s comment about low ticket sales kept theatergoers from buying any.

Understudy Scott Stangland will assume the role of Pierre after Oak leaves, followed by Dave Malloy for the final two weeks.

RIP Barbara Cook, 89

Barbara Cook, the self-proclaimed poor, naive Southern Belle who became the reigning soprano in the Golden Age of Broadway and then a cabaret and concert hall star of the first magnitude, has died at age 89.

Broadway will dim its lights in her honor on Wednesday at 7:45 p.m.

Read my review of her memoir published just last year., about a life full of 19 Broadway shows, 45 albums, 40 yrs of sobriety — and one glorious golden voice that never failed her.

She would tell students: “Concentrate on what you’re trying to say with this song; the words have to matter.”

 

Barbara Cook in Mostly Sondheim

NYMF Awards for Excellence 2017

Errol and Fidel, Generation Me, and Georama were among the big winners of the 2017 New York Musical Festival Awards for Excellence. Freedom Riders won for both outstanding music and “social relevance and impact.”

The complete list below:

OUTSTANDING MUSIC
Winner: Richard Allen and Taran Gray, Freedom Riders

OUTSTANDING BOOK
Winner: Julie Soto, Generation Me

OUTSTANDING LYRICS
Winner: Matt Schatz with Additional Lyrics by Jack Herrick, Georama: An American Panorama Told on 3 Miles of Canvas

OUTSTANDING OVERALL DESIGN
Winner: Jason H. Thompson, Whitney Locher, Scott Neale, Ann Wrightson, Georama: An American Panorama Told On 3 Miles Of Canvas

OUTSTANDING MUSICAL ARRANGEMENTS AND ORCHESTRATIONS
Winner: Doug Oberhamer, Errol and Fidel

OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHY
Winner: Justin Boccitto, Errol and Fidel

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE IN A LEADING ROLE
Nancy Anderson, THE FOURTH MESSENGER
Milo Manheim, GENERATION ME

Brian Charles Rooney, MISS BLANCHE TELLS IT ALLOUTSTANDING

PERFORMANCE IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Randy Blair, GEORAMA: AN AMERICAN PANORAMA TOLD ON 3 MILES OF CANVAS
George Psomas, ERROL AND FIDEL
Nattalyee Randall, THE GOREE ALL-GIRL STRING BAND

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE
GENERATION ME. Cast includes Addyson Bell, Jenna Bergman, Laila Drew, Ian Ferrell, Mateo Gonzales, Brett Hargrave, Celia Hottenstein, Milo Manheim, Will Meyers, Julia Nightingale, Anthony Norman, Dante Palminteri, Oscar Revelins, Anabella Ronson-Benenati, Deandre Sevon

OUTSTANDING DIRECTION
West Hyler, GEORAMA: AN AMERICAN PANORAMA TOLD ON 3 MILES OF CANVAS

BEST MUSICAL SPONSORED BY PLAY-BY-PLAY
GENERATION ME –Book by Julie Soto; Music by Will Finan; Lyrics by Julie Soto; Story by Julie Soto & Ryan Warren

OUTSTANDING INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE AWARDS:
Janet Aldrich, BEN, VIRGINIA, AND ME (THE LIBERACE MUSICAL)
Sydia Cedeño, ERROL AND FIDEL
Ian Ferrell, GENERATION ME
Julia Nightingale, GENERATION ME
Anabella Ronson-Benenati, GENERATION ME
PJ Griffith, GEORAMA: AN AMERICAN PANORAMA TOLD ON 3 MILES OF CANVAS
Harriet D. Foy, MOTHERFREAKINGHOOD! (MATERNAL DISCRETION ADVISED)
Tara Martinez, NIGHT TIDE
Sharon Sachs, NUMBERS NERDS
Carrie Berk, PEACE, LOVE, AND CUPCAKES
Zoe Wilson, PLAY LIKE A WINNER

SPECIAL CITATIONS:
Building a Movement Through Musical Theater: Sheryl Berk, Carrie Berk, Jill Jaysen, and Rick Hip-Flores of PEACE, LOVE, AND CUPCAKES for their partnership with NoBully.org

Theatre for Young Audiences: Matthew McElligott, Tuxbury, Brian Sheldon, and Michael Musial, BACKBEARD

Extraordinary Festival Costume Design: Kurt Alger for BEN, VIRGINIA AND ME (THE LIBERACE MUSICAL)

Social Relevance and Impact: Richard Allen and Taran Gray, FREEDOM RIDERS

Festival Achievement in Projection Design: Kevan Loney for his work on BEN, VIRGINIA AND ME (THE LIBERACE MUSICAL); GENERATION ME; NUMBERS NERDS; and THE CADAVER SYNOD

 

Check out my preview of the 14th annual New York Musical Festival

Indecent Doesn’t Die. Bette Sets Departure. Harry Potter Casts. Frozen Warms Up. Week in NY Theater

Indecent 1 Adina Verson and Katrina Lenk

.Indecent ends today on Broadway, after 128 performances and 15 previews, but Paula Vogel’s play was recorded Thursday for BroadwayHD streaming in January.

The play will also be seen this season at The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis,  and The Huntington in Boston, and next season with 20 productions in cities throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as Tel Aviv.

Hamilton opened on Broadway two years ago today

July Quiz

August openings

Week in NY Theater Reviews

John Lewis (Anthony Chatmon II ) being attacked by a thug (Mike Nigro)

Freedom Riders

Congressman John Lewis, on his way to see “Freedom Riders”

I ran into Congressman John Lewis, one of the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, on my way to see “Freedom Riders,” the inspiring gospel and soul-flavored musical about the courageous efforts by black and white activists in 1961 to desegregate interstate travel in the South. Rep. Lewis was going to the same show, as it turns out, and he was also in the show – one of the characters.

Really Rosie

A musical written by Maurice Sendak, with a score by Carole King?! Why isn’t it better known?…“Really Rosie” is strictly for kids, and, while sitting through its 70 minutes, I have never felt less “young at heart” in my entire life

…Lost on stage is Sendak’s complex tone, dark and full of dread, defiantly subversive, but at the same time beautiful and somehow gentle.

Instead, we get cuteness and ….razzle dazzle.

Theater of War’s Antigone in Ferguson

 

The Week in NY Theater News

The cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which opens April 22, 2018 at Broadway’s Lyric Theater, wll include seven from the West End production

Left to right: Paul Thornley (Ron Weasley); Noma Dumezweni (Hermione Granger), Jamie Parker (Harry Potter),Sam Clemmett (Albus Potter), Poppy Miller (Ginny Potter), Alex Price (Draco Malfoy) and Anthony Boyle (Scorpius Malfoy).

They will be joined by David Abeles, Brian Abraham, Shirine Babb, Jess Barbagallo, Stephen Bradbury, Lauren Nicole Cipoletti, Joshua De Jesus, Jessie Fisher, Richard Gallagher, Susan Heyward, Geraldine Hughes, Edward James Hyland, Byron Jennings,Katie Kreisler, Joey LaBrasca, Andrew Long, Kathryn Meisle, Angela Reed, Dave Register,
Adeola Role, James Romney, Malika Samuel, Alanna Saunders, David St. Louis, Stuart Ward, Madeline Weinstein, Alex Weisman and Benjamin Wheelwrig

Frozen posters picked and rejected

 

Frozen promotion

The cast of A Clockwork Orange, which opens September 25 at New World Stages, will feature the star of the London production, Jonno Davies (far left in top row), as well as Matt Doyle, fresh from Sweeney Todd (next to Davies), plus:

Sean Patrick Higgins, Brian Lee Huynh, Timothy Sekk, (second row) Jordan Bondurant, Misha Osherovich, Jimmy Brooks, Ashley Robinson and Aleksander Varadian

A Clockwork Orange trailer

 

The cast of “Once on This Island,”  set to open on December 3, will feature Philip Boykin and Alysha Deslorieux

and

Bette Midler says her last performance of Hello Dolly will be January 14, 2018. (Will show go on?)

Stark Sands and Billy Porter will return to roles they originated in Kinky Boots, September 26 to January 7 2018

This Week’s Reads


What Broadway Can Learn From ‘The Great Comet’ Debacle

Many “are trying to isolate Comet’s debacle as either a racial or a financial issue, when it’s really both.”

….If Oak were more famous, they wouldn’t have had to replace him. If he were white, they wouldn’t have been hit with backlash.

“If Broadway is a game to be played by rich white bullies patronizing poor artists, you’d be hard-pressed to find two people better suited to win. (than producers Howard and Janet Kagan) “And yet: their show is the only new musical this season with two black actors in lead roles. It employs almost three dozen others, most of whom made their Broadway debut on its stage. It’s the opposite of a safe investment – about as far from a mutual fund as you can get.”

 

Shylock and Othello in the Time of Xenophobia

In his own time, William Shakespeare came across two Italian tales with two anonymous characters, a Jewish moneylender and a Moorish soldier. What they had in common was Venice, not the city of swooning and romance, but a dominant maritime republic, a commercial and military power, a bustling, multiethnic metropolis — the New York of its day. From that material, Shakespeare fashioned Shylock and Othello.

Shakespeare’s Venetian plays carry both the disease and its antibody. They sum up deep-seated stereotypes about Jews, Muslims and blacks, and simultaneously unsettle them, inviting the exploration of these cultures.

From Backdrops to Handbags to Broadway First-Timers

Stage manager Jen Kahn  makes handbags out of old show backdrops and gives some of the proceeds to the Theater Development Fund to take high school and middle students to Broadway shows.

in defense of escapism

August 2017 New York Theater Openings: Hal Prince, Michael Moore…and More

Michael Moore and Harold Prince have the month all to themselves, more or less,  at the center of the two Broadway shows opening this month. It’s unusual to have any shows open on Broadway in August. Usually, it’s a month filled with festival fare — but, for the first time in 20 years, there will be no  New York International Fringe Festival this August, thus minus its 200+ shows. Still, there are three other (much smaller) theater festivals opening this month, one of them new.

Below, shows with August openings arranged chronologically by opening date.Click on any title to get to its website.

Color key: Broadway: RedOff Broadway: blue. Off Off Broadway: Green. Theater festival: Orange

August 2

A Parallelogram (Second Stage Theater)

A new play by Bruce Norris, the author of Clybourne Park, stars Celia Keenan-Bolger as a woman who can see her future.

August 3

Curvy Widow (Westside Theater)

Nancy Opel stars in a musical comedy “based on a true story” as a 50-year-old widow going back into the dating pool.

August 6

summer shorts 59e59

Summer Shorts, Series B (59E59 Theater)

Plays by Neil LaBute; Chris Cragin-Day; Lindsay Craft and Andrew Leeds

August 7

Corkscrew Theater Festival (Paradise Factory)

Running Aug 7 – Sept 3, this new summer theater festival features five world premieres and five readings performed in repertory over four weeks.

August 10

The Terms of My Surrender (Belasco)

Michael Moore makes his Broadway debut in what promises to be a stand-up routine to take down Trump.

A Never-Ending Line (Players Theater)

A song cycle with music by Jaime Lozano and lyrics by nine women lyricists. “Inspired by his upbringing in a strong matriarchy, Lozano conceived the show as a tribute to the women in his life. The songs, performed by a company of four, explore the unique challenges women face in society today on the journey to find happiness, love, and meaning in their lives. ”

August 17

Come Light My Cigarette (Theater at St. Clement’s)

A new musical about a young actress who “is driven to confront the two most turbulent relationships in her life—her father, with whom she shares a volatile and shameful past, and her ex-lover, a powerful and controlling woman who was instrumental in making her a success.”

 

August 24

Prince of Broadway (MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman)

Musical numbers from shows in which Hal Prince served as a producer or director, such as “West Side Story,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Cabaret,” “Follies” and “Sweeney Todd.”

August 27

Nathalie Ellis-Einhorn in I.M. LOST!

Dream Up Festival  (Theater for The New City)

The eighth annual festival will run August 27 – September 17, featuring more than 25 plays, 12 of them world premiere, four musicals, four on LGBTQ themes. One play comes from Iceland, “Guilty,”  about an infamous 19th century crime there. Another,”I.M. LOST!” is an “interactive clown show” based on interviews with clowns.