Top 10 New York Theater in 2016 To Be Grateful For

My list of ten favorite shows on New York stages in 2016 reflect two unmistakable trends – the use of the stage to present important current issues facing the country, and shows that innovate in artistic form.

If these seem like very different trends, an argument can be made that they are both in reaction to this surreal election year.

Some shows that fit the bill of socially conscious or artistically innovative, or both, aren’t on this list, simply because they weren’t my favorite. The most obvious example is Richard Nelson’s trilogy “The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family,” which was admirable in many ways, but which didn’t hold me the way his earlier, similar trilogy about the Apple family had.

It’s worth noting that most of the shows on this list were Off-Broadway or Off-Off Broadway, although two of them are scheduled to transfer to Broadway in the Spring of 2017, marking the long-delayed Broadway debuts of their authors.

1. Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Josh Groban as Pierre and the cast of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway

Josh Groban as Pierre and the cast of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway

This sung-through musical adapted from a “scandalous slice” of “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy was on my list of top 10 in 2013, when it had moved from the Off-Broadway theater Ars Nova to a circus tent in the Meatpacking District. I was struck from the get-go by its catchy songs and by its cutting-edge stagecraft.

I list it as my favorite now that it’s on Broadway starring Josh Groban, because of how little it’s changed. Its staging comes very close to the kind of immersive theater that’s lately been intriguing theatergoers all over the world – everywhere but Broadway, until now.

The musical is a collaboration among three emerging theater artists who have now fully emerged – composer Dave Malloy, director Rachel Chavkin and set designer Mimi Lien. All of them have an already impressive track record – Chavkin was also the director and collaborator this year on the terrific Hadestown — and promise groundbreaking work to come.


2. Sweat

Sweat 2

Like Grapes of Wrath, Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat offers a devastating look at social and economic breakdown, told not with rants or statistics, but through a riveting tale about good people in a bad situation. The characters in Sweat hang out in a bar in Reading, Pennsylvania, which 2010 U.S. Census data identified as the poorest city in America.

Everything clicked for me in the Public Theater production of this play, which is transferring to Broadway in Spring 2017. Playwright Lynn Nottage, who spent much time doing research in Reading, deserves additional kudos for continuing her presence in that city, developing a site-specific installation in  the abandoned Reading Railroad Station, entitled “Out/Let,” to engage the diverse and divided communities of the city in dialogue, and create a cohesive and collective portrait of the city.

3. Dear Evan Hansen


This musical is about an awkward teenager whose life is turned upside down because of a well-meaning lie he tells in the wake of a suicide of a classmate, which is amplified by social media. Ben Platt’s heartbreaking performance, Pasek and Paul’s tuneful score and the sensitive book by Steven Levenson make this show both affecting and entertaining. But “Dear Evan Hansen” is also insightful into all matter of basic human conditions, from grief to altruism, and it has only gained in relevance and impact just in the short time it has journeyed from regional theater to Off-Broadway to Broadway, where it opened this month.


4. A 24-Decade History of Popular Music

Taylor Mac 1776 to 1806

Taylor Mac 1776 to 1806

Taylor Mac’s 24-decade history of popular music was also a 24-hour history – a marathon culminating presentation of American songs from 1776 to the present that was outrageous, outlandish, offensive, embarrassing, raunchy, insightful, inspired, clever, sometimes hilarious, sometimes moving, sometimes thrilling — and once-in-a-lifetime. Mac has singlehandedly invented his own genre. The term “concert” feels inadequate – just as calling Mac a drag act doesn’t get anywhere close to describing the artist’s extraordinary talent and breadth of theatrical ambition . The Mac voice is a flexible instrument that serves all genres, the body a canvas for fabulousness, the mind a weapon against mainstream complacency.


 5. Notes From The Field

Anna Deavere Smith as Pastor Jamal-Harrison Bryant, delivering Freddie Gray's funeral eulogy.

Anna Deavere Smith as Pastor Jamal-Harrison Bryant, delivering Freddie Gray’s funeral eulogy.

It’s been nearly a quarter century since Anna Deavere Smith more or less invented her own art form, a theatrical genre that combines activism, extensive research, a deep talent for mimicry, and a journalist’s devotion to accuracy and balance with an artist’s masterful command of stagecraft. She applies her approach once again, albeit a bit diffusely, to explore the interconnection between a neglectful public education system, a overly funded prison system, and the killing of black people by police.


6. Caught (and YOUARENOWHERE and A Life)


“Caught” messed with your head in the most exquisite of ways. In part a send-up of the art scene – the conceptual artist as con artist — it was itself a form of conceptual art, and a series of cons, presenting a Chinese dissident artist who turned out to be very different from what he initially seemed. It is a prime example of an emerging trend that I call trickster theater. Other terrific examples of trickster theater this year were ” YOUARENOWHERE” by Andrew Schneider, which I’m not going to attempt to explain (except to say that its title is both “You are Now Here” and “You Are Nowhere”), and A Life by Adam Bock, which has a coup de theatre halfway through that I really shouldn’t reveal. (That’s the problem with trickster theater – it’s hard to write about.) Either one of these could be in my top 10 as well. I single out Caught because in its provocative way it had things to say about truth and lies and perception, about the pitfalls of cultural exchange – and even, what I suspect will be a big news story, the relationship between China and the West.

 7. Vietgone


Qui Nguyen and director May Adrales find such richly inventive and entertaining ways to tell the love story of two Vietnamese refugees in America that the play feels wiped clean of the clichés of both the ‘immigrant experience’ and ‘the hell of war’…For all the pop-culture silliness, the playfulness with language, and the clever stagecraft, ‘Vietgone’ paints complex and credible portraits of the two main characters.


 8. Indecent

Indecent 2 The cast of Indecent photo by Carol Rosegg

While Broadway reacquainted audiences with Shuffle Along, Off-Broadway was opening our eyes to another landmark Broadway show from the 1920s – this one an all-Jewish, lesbian-themed drama that led to a criminal prosecution. Indecent is both a fascinating history lesson written by Pulitzer-winning Paul Vogel, and a cleverly staged entertainment directed by Rebecca Taichman. It is scheduled to transfer to Broadway in 2017, making – incredibly – Vogel’s Broadway debut.


9. She Loves Me

Laura Benanti

Laura Benanti

I’ll concede this revival of a 1963 slightly dated, somewhat flawed musical is an outlier on the list, but I have a soft spot for “She Loves Me,”,in which I played the lead in a student production when I was in ninth grade (She Loves Me, the Broadway Musical That Changed Our Lives.) Still, even somebody who has never heard of this romantic musical comedy could easily fall in love with this year’s Broadway production, thanks to the gorgeously melodic score, David Rockwell’s jewel box of a set, and the stand-out performances by Laura Benanti and Jane Krakowski as two lovelorn shopgirls in an elegant European parfumerie.


10.  Black MagicThe Radicalization of Rolfe,  Rent Control

Aaron Marshall-Bobb, Malik Squire, Skyler James, Ibn Days, Tony Jenkins, Evan Reiser, Justin Campbell

Aaron Marshall-Bobb, Malik Squire, Skyler James, Ibn Days, Tony Jenkins, Evan Reiser, Justin Campbell

The Radicalization of Rolfe

The Radicalization of Rolfe


These three shows were among my favorite at the 20th New York International Fringe Festival, a festival I’ve attended every year since it began.

Black Magic is a choreopoem written by undergraduates about a series of anonymous black men, who died violently.

The Radicalization of Rolfe tells a back story of The Sound of Music, but unlike such shows for equally cherished stories like Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz, it’s not a musical, and it’s subversive – Rolfe, the minor character who was 16 going on 17, is depicted as a gay Nazi. But the play is not campy.

Rent Control is Evan Zes’s  solo show, which he says is based on his personal experience,  that is as much about the life of a struggling actor as it is about his adventures as a housing hustler doing battle (or taking advantage) of the behavioral sink that is New York City’s housing market.

The Fringe organizers announced that they are going on hiatus next year, which makes my singling out shows from this anniversary year all the more necessary. Who knows what will happen in the future?

Tiny Beautiful Things Review: Nia Vardalos Dramatizes Dear Sugar Advice Columns

While watching “Tiny Beautiful Things,” a stage version at the Public Theater of Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling book, I started to wonder whether it made sense to try to adapt a collection of advice columns on stage, even ones as literate and touching as Strayed’s Dear Sugar columns, and even in an adaptation by an artist as talented as Nia Vardalos, best-known as the writer and star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

I stopped wondering when Alfredo Narciso, one of the three actors portraying the various letter-writers, recited the letter from an advice-seeker that was in the form of a list of 22 items. The list stopped at 22; that was the age at which his son was killed by a drunken driver. He signed it “Living Dead Dad.” Vardalos as Sugar then replies with a list of her own, containing 24 items. I can tell you that she talked about her own mother’s death at a young age; I can quote an especially striking comment on her list:

“Your son hasn’t yet taught you everything he has to teach you. He taught you how to love like you’ve never loved before. He taught you how to suffer like you’ve never suffered before. Perhaps the next thing he has to teach you is acceptance. And the thing after that, forgiveness.”

What is harder to communicate is how unbearably moving Narciso and Vardalos made these recitations.

“Tiny Beautiful Things” inspires such strong emotional reactions that the awkward set-up winds up not mattering much. Vardalos putters around an elaborate re-creation of Strayed’s home, one that’s better furnished and (almost) more cluttered than my own. She absentmindedly goes about her household chores — washing dishes, folding laundry – while the three other actors stand around in her home, looking weirdly out of place, as they take turns reciting the various letters, to which she then responds. The letters and the responses are largely faithful to the text of Strayed’s book, although they are sometimes trimmed, and they are put in an artful order; on rare occasion, the actors more or less act out a scene from a letter or a response.

Strayed’s approach to advice is to find stories from her own life, and so “Tiny Beautiful Things” functions as a kind of memoir. We learn that the last word her mother said to her was “love” – she was too sick and weak to muster the “I” or the “you.” We learn that Strayed’s grandfather sexually abused her when she was a toddler, and that Strayed got pregnant by a heroin addict while she herself was using the drug. What’s most startling and rewarding about her stories is not just that they are told well, but that they are applied to advice-seeker’s dilemmas to which they don’t on the surface seem relevant. To “Stuck,” who writes that she can’t get over her miscarriage, Sugar tells the story of a job she had as a youth advocate for “at risk” middle school girls. Their families were so abusive to them that she called the police and child protection services, but “no one did anything. So I told the girls something different. This will not stop. It will go on and you have to find a place within yourself to not only escape the shit, but to transcend it, and if you aren’t able to do that, then your whole life will be shit, forever and ever and ever. You have to do more than hold on. You have to reach….You have to reach for your desire to heal.”

“Tiny Beautiful Things” ends with Sugar, as portrayed by all four actors, offering a string of advice to her younger self, concluding with: “During the era in which you’ve gotten yourself ridiculously tangled up with heroin you will be riding the bus one hot afternoon and thinking what a worthless piece of crap you are. A little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of two purple balloons. She’ll offer you one of the balloons, but you won’t take it because you believe you no longer have a right to such tiny beautiful things. You’re wrong. You do.”

Is it too schmaltzy to call this play a tiny beautiful thing?






Based on the Book by Cheryl Strayed
Adapted for the Stage by Nia Vardalos
Co-Conceived by Marshall Heyman, Thomas Kailand Nia Vardalos
Directed by Thomas Kail
Featuring Phillip James Brannon, Alfredo Narciso, Miriam Silverman, Natalie Woolams-Torres and Nia Vardalos (Sugar)

Scenic Design by Rachel Hauck
Costume Design by Jennifer Moeller
Lighting Design by Jeff Croiter
Sound Design by Jill BC Du Boff

Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission

Tickets: $95

Tiny Beautiful Things is scheduled to run through December 31, 2016

Sing Along With #HairsprayLive

Below is the tracklist for Hairspray Live broadcast on NBC today December 7, 2016, 8 to 11 p.m. ET.  The song titles (accompanied in parentheses by the characteor characters  singing) are linked to lyrics as performed in the original 2002 Broadway production. 


Good Morning Baltimore (Tracy Turnblad and Company)

The Nicest Kids in Town (Amber Von Tussle, Brad, Brenda, Corny Collins, Fender, IQ, Link Larkin, Lou Ann and ShellyMama)

I’m a Big Girl Now(Amber Von Tussle, Edna Turnblad, Penny Pingleton, Prudy Pingleton, Tracy Turnblad and Velma Von Tussle)

I Can Hear the Bells (Tracy Turnblad)

(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs (Amber Von Tussle, Brad, Brenda, Fender, IQ, Link Larkin, Lou Ann, Shelly and Velma Von Tussle

The Madison (Corny Collins)

The Nicest Kids in Town(Reprise) (Amber Von Tussle, Brad, Brenda, Corny Collins, Fender, IQ, Link Larkin, Lou Ann and Shelly)

It Takes Two (Link Larkin and Tracy Turnblad)

Welcome to the ’60s (Tracy Turnblad, Edna Turnblad and The Dynamites, and Company)

Big, Blonde & Beautiful (Company)

Run and Tell That (Seaweed J. Stubbs, Little Inez and Company)

Big, Blonde & Beautiful (Edna Turnblad, Little Inez, Motormouth Maybelle, Tracy Turnblad and Wilbur Turnblad)

The Madison (Corny Collins and Company)

The Big Dollhouse (Amber Von Tussle, Edna Turnblad, Matron, Motormouth Maybelle, Penny Pingleton, Tracy Turnblad, Velma Von Tussle and Women)


Good Morning Baltimore(Reprise) (Tracy Turnblad)

Timeless to Me (Edna Turnblad and Wilbur Turnblad)

Without Love(Link Larkin, Penny Pingleton, Seaweed J. Stubbs and Tracy Turnblad)

I Know Where I’ve Been (Motormouth Maybelle and Company)

Hairspray (Corny Collins and Council Members)

Cooties (Amber Von Tussle and and Council Members)

You Can’t Stop the Beat (Edna Turnblad, Link Larkin, Motormouth Maybelle, Penny Pingleton, Seaweed J. Stubbs, Tracy Turnblad and Wilbur Turnblad)

Good Morning Baltimore

Oh, oh, oh
Woke up today
Feeling the way i always do
Oh, oh, oh
Hungry for something
That i can’t eat
When i hear the beat
The rhythm of town
Starts calling me down
It’s like a message from
High above
Oh, oh, oh
Pulling me out
To the smiles and the
Streets that i love

Good morning Baltimore
Every day’s like an open door
Every night is a fantasy
Every sound’s like a symphony

Good morning Baltimore
And some day when i take to the floor
The world’s gonna wake up and see
Baltimore and me

Oh, oh, oh
Look at my hair
What “do” can compare with mine today?
Oh, oh, oh,
I’ve got my hairspray and radio
I’m ready to go

The rats on the street
All dance round my feet
They seem to say
“Tracy, it’s up to you”
So, oh, oh
Don’t hold me back
‘Cause today all my dreams will come true

Good morning Baltimore
There’s the flasher who lives next door
There’s the bum on his bar room stool
They wish me luck on my way to school

Good morning Baltimore
And some day when i take to the floor
The world’s gonna wake up and see
Baltimore and me

I know every step
I know every song
I know there’s a place where i belong
I see all those party lights shining ahead
So someone invite me
Before i drop dead!

Before she drops dead!

So, Oh, Oh

Give me a chance
‘Cause when i start to dance i’m a movie star
Oh, oh, oh
Something inside of me makes me move
When i hear the groove

My ma tells me no
But my feet tell me go!
It’s like a drummer inside my heart
Oh, oh, oh
Don’t make me wait
One more moment for my life to start…

Good morning, good morning
Waiting for my life to start

I love you Baltimore
Every day’s like an open door
Every night is a fantasy
Every sound’s like a symphony

And i promise Baltimore
That some day when
I take to the floor
The world’s gonna wake up and see
Gonna wake up and see
Baltimore and me…

Yes, More Or Less We All Agree

Baltimore and me…

Someday the world
Is gonna see

Baltimore and me!


The Nicest Girl in Town

Hey there, Teenage Baltimore!
Don’t change that channel!
‘Cause it’s time for the Corny
Collins Show! Brought to you by
Ultra Clutch Hairspray!

Ev’ry afternoon
When the clock strikes four
(bop-bee-ba, ba-ba-ba-ba, bee-ba)

A crazy bunch of kids
Crash through that door
(bop-bee-ba, ba-ba-ba-ba, bee-ba)

They throw off their coats
And leave the squares behind
And then they shake it, shake it, shake it
Like they’re losing their mind
You’ll never see them frown
‘Cause they’re the nicest kids in town

Every afternoon
You turn your T.V. on
(na, na, na, na, na, na-na-na-na)

And we know you turn the sound up
When your parents are gone, yeah
(na, na, na, na, na, na-na-na-na)

And then you twist and shout
For your favorite star
And once you’ve practiced every step
That’s in your repertoire
You better come on down
And meet the nicest kids in town

Nice white kids
Who like to lead the way
And once a month
We have our “negro day!”
And i’m the man who keeps it spinnin’ round
Mr. Corny Collins
With the latest, greatest Baltimore sound!!

So every afternoon
Drop everything
(bop-bee-ba, ba-ba-ba-ba, bee-ba)

Who needs to read and write
When you can dance and sing?
(bop-bee-ba, ba-ba-ba-ba, bee-ba)

Forget about your algebra
And calculus
You can always do your homework
On the morning bus
Can’t tell a verb from a noun
They’re the nicest kids in town

Roll Call!!

I’m Amber!
Lou Ann!
And I’m…LINK!
(All of the girls scream.)

So, if every night you’re shaking
As you lie in bed
(mony-mony, ooh, mony-mony)

And the bass and drums
Are pounding in your head
(mony-mony, ooh, mony-mony)
Who cares about sleep
When you can snooze in

They’ll never get to college
But they sure look cool
Don’t need a cap and a gown
‘Cause they’re the nicest
Kids in town

They’re the nicest. Nicest
They’re the nicest, nicest
They’re the sugar ‘n’ spicest,
The nicest kids in…
Kids in town!

Mama I’m a Big Girl Now

Don’t contradict me!
Don’t disobey me!
Don’t even think about going to that audition!


stop telling me what to do-o
don’t treat me like a child of two-o
I know that you want what’s best
but mother please….give it a rest!

stop, don’t, no!

mama, I’m a big girl now!

Once upon a time when I was just a kid
You never let me do just what the older kids did
But lose that laundry list of what you won’t allow
cause mama, I’m a big girl now! (Oh, Tracy!)

Once upon a time I used to play with toys…
But now I’d rather play around with teenage boys
So if I get a hicky please don’t, have a cow!
cause mama, I’m a big girl now!

Ma, I gotta tell you that without a doubt
I got my best dancing lessons from yo-ou
You’re the one who taught me how to twist and shout
Because you shout non-stop, and you’re so twisted to-o

Once I used to fidget cause I just sat home
But now I’m just like Gidget, and I gotta get to Rome
So say arrividicci, toodle-loo, and ciao!
cause mama I’m a big girl now!

stop, don’t, no!
mama, I’m a big girl now!

hey mama….
say mama…

Once upon a time I was a shy young thing
Could barely walk and talk so much as dance and sing
But let me hit that stage I wanna take my bow…
cause mama, I’m a big girl now!

Once upon a time I used to dress up Ken
But now that I’m a woman I like…bigger men
And I don’t need a barbie doll to show me how
cause mama I’m a big girl now!


ma, you always taught me what was right from wrong
and now I just wanna give it a try
Mama, I’m been in a nest for far to long!
So please give a push and mama watch me fly!
Watch me fly!

hey mama….
say mama…

One day I will meet a man you won’t condemn
And we will have some kids and you can torture them
But let me be a star before I take that vow!
Cause mama, I’m a big girl now
Mama, I’m a big girl now
Hey, ya, ya, ya, yay
Mama…I’m a big girl…
oo, such a big big girl
I’m a big girl…now…oooo (2x)
(stop don’t no please)
mama, I’m a big girl now!

I Can Hear The Bells

I can hear the bells

Tracy, are you all right?

Well, don’tcha hear them chime?

“Chimes” not how I’d put it.

Can’t ‘cha feel my heartbeat keeping perfect time?
And all because he…

Touched me
He looked at me and stared, yes he
Bumped me
My heart was unprepared when he
Tapped me
And knocked me off my feet
One little touch
Now my life’s complete ’cause when he

Nudged me
Love put me in a fix, yes it
Hit me
Just like a ton of bricks, yes my
Heart burst
Now i know what life’s about
One little touch
And love’s knocked me out and…

I can hear the bells
My head is spinning
I can hear the bells
Something’s beginning

Everybody says
That a girl who looks like me
Can’t win his love
Well, just wait and see ’cause

I can hear the bells
Just hear them chiming
I can hear the bells
My temperature’s climbing

I cant contain my joy
‘Cause i finally found the boy
I’ve been missin’
I can hear the bells

Round one
He’ll ask me on a date and then
Round two
I’ll primp, but won’t late because
Round three’s
When we kiss inside his car
Won’t go all the way
But I’ll go pretty far!
And then,

Round four
He’ll ask me for my hand and then
Round five
We’ll book the wedding band so by
Round six
Amber, much to your surprise
This heavyweight champion
Takes the prize and…

I can hear the bells
My ears are ringing
I can hear the bells
The bridesmaids are singing

Everybody says
Thet a guy who’s such a gem
Won’t look my way
Well, the laugh’s on them ’cause
I can hear the bells

My father will smile
I can hear the bells
As he walks me down the aisle

My mother starts to cry
But I can’t see ’cause Link and I
Are french kissin’
I can hear the bells

I can hear the bells
My head is reeling
I can hear the bells
***I can’t stop the pealing***

Everybody warns
That he won’t like what he’ll see
But i know that he’ll look
Inside of me yeah,

I can hear the bells
Today’s just the start ’cause
I can hear the bells
And ’til death do us part

And even when we die
We’ll look down from up above
Remembering the night
That we two fell in love

We both will share a tear
And he’ll whisper as we’re reminiscin’
I can hear the bells

We can hear the bells

I can hear the bells

We can hear the bells

I can hear the bells

The Legend of Miss Baltimore Crabs

Front step
Cha cha cha
Back step
Cha cha cha
Side step
Front step
And turn

Oh my God Penny there’s Link! Link.
I can’t believe I’m really here auditioning

I cant believe I’m really here watching you audition

Front step
Back step
Side step
Front step
And Oh Amber look at this motley crew
Oh this town has certainly gone down hill since I was crowned miss

Oh mother no more ancient history

Oh my God how times have changed
These girls must be blind or completely deranged
But times seem to halt when I was miss Baltimore crabs
Amber! That move is far too dirty

Mother wake up from that dream of yours
This isn’t 1930

You can laugh but life’s a test
Don’t do this don’t do that
Remember mother knows best
And the crowns in the vault
From when I won Miss Baltimore crabs

These steps are perfect ammunition

Let me show you how your mommy dear took out the competition
Girls go get them
Boys let rumba
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Those poor runner ups might still hold some grudges
They padded their cups
But I screwed the judges
Those brawds thought they’d win
If a plate they would spin in there dance
Ah not a chance
Boys put me down
Oh good morning ladies
Let’s see what you got

Twist twist twist twist
Mashed potato

Ready begin
On my show you’ll never find
A thrusting hip or bump and grind

What’s that a dance for flees and ticks

Oh you should have seen my bag of tricks
Oh I hit the stage batons ablaze
While belting aita and preparing soufflés
But that triple somersault is how I clinched miss Baltimore crabs

Are you scared we’re on live?

No I’m sure I can cope

Well this show isn’t broadcasted… cinemascope!

I never drank one chocolate malt
No deserts for Miss Baltimore crabs

This one will never get a date in those hand me down clothes

Ha! Kid she’ll never get a date until daddy buys her a new nose
I would say Oy gavault if I wasn’t Miss Baltimore crabs

Do you dance like you dress?

Amber there’s no reason to be cruel

Would you swim in an integrated pool?

I sure would! I’m all for integration
It’s the new frontier

Not in Baltimore it isn’t
And may I be frank
First impressions can be tough
And when I saw you I knew it
If your size weren’t enough
Your last answer just blew it
And so my dear so short and stout
You’ll never be in so we’re kicking you out
With your form and your face
Ah it isn’t your fault
You’re just down with a case of Miss Baltimore crabs
Ugh you may go

Um thank you

I think they secretly liked you

May I please audition?

Ha of course not but you may bow and exalt
Because I am Miss Baltimore crabs

It Takes Two

They say it’s a man’s world
Well, that cannot be denied
But what good’s a man’s world
Without a woman by his side
And so i will wait
Until that moment you decide

That i’m your man
And you’re my girl
That i’m the sea
And you’re the pearl
It takes two, baby,
It takes two
Doo doo – wop!

A king ain’t a king
Without the pow’r behind the throne
A prince is a pauper. Babe,
Without a chick to call his own
So please, darling, choose me
I don’t wanna rule alone
Tell me,

I’m your king
And you’re my queen
That no one else
Can come between
It takes two, baby,
It takes two

Don’t you know

Lancelot had Gwenovere
Mrs. Claus has Old St. Nick
Romeo had Juliet
And Liz, well, she has her Dick

They say it takes two to tango
Well, that tango’s child’s play
So take me to the dance floor
And we’ll twist the night away

Just like Frankie Avalon
Had his favorite Mouseketeer
I dream of a lover, babe,
To say the things I long to hear
So come closer baby,
Oh and whisper in my ear
Tell me, you’re my girl
And I’m your boy
That you’re my pride
And I’m your joy
That I’m the sand
And you’re the tide
I’ll be the groom
If you’ll be my bride
It takes two, baby,
It takes two

It takes two, baby
It takes two

…Two – oo –

Welcome to the 60’s

Hey mama hey mama,
Look around
Everybody’s groovin’ to a brand new sound
Hey mama hey mama,
Follow me
1 know something’s in you
That you wanna set free
So let so, go, go of the past now
Say hello to the love in your heart
Yes, 1 know that the world’s spinning fast now
You gotta get yourself a brand new start

Hey mama, welcome to the 60’s
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh mama, welcome to the 60’s
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Go mama, go, go, go!

Welcome to the 60’s
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
Hey mama
Yeah, yeah, yeah,
Yeah, yeah, yeah

Hey mama, hey mama,
Have some fun

I haven’t left this house since 1951

Hey mama, hey mama,
Take a chance

Oh Tracy, it’s been years
Since someone asked me to dance

So let go, so, go of the past now
Say hello to the light in your eyes
Yes, i know that the world’s
Spinning fast now
But you gotta run the race
To win the prize

Hey mama, welcome to the 60’s
Oh, oh, oh, oh. Oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh mama, welcome to the 60’s
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Go mama, go, go, go!

Welcome to the 60’s
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
Hey mama
Yeah, yeah, yeah,
Yeah, yeah, yeah

(Tracy & Edna arrive at Mr. Pinky’s Hefty Hideaway
as new fans besiege Tracy for photos and autographs.)

Welcome to the rhythm of a brand new day

Take your old-fashioned fears

And just throw them away

You should add some color and a fresh new “do”

‘Cause it’s time for a star
Who looks |ust like you!

Dontcha let nobody
Try to steal your fun
‘Cause a little touch of lipstick
Never hurt no one

The future’s got a million roads
For you to choose
But you’ll walk a little taller
In some high-heel shoes

And once you find the style
That makes you feel like you
Something fresh
Something new

Step on out
Hear us shout

Mama, that’s your cue!!!

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

(Edna emerges from Mr. Pinky’s Hefty Hideaway all brand new.)

Hey Tracy, hey baby,
Look at me!
I’m the cutest chickie
That ya ever did see

Hey Tracy, hey baby,
Look at us
Where is there a team
That’s half as fabulous?!

(Tracy takes her turn in “Mr. Pinky’s”.)

I let go, go. Go of the past now
Said hello to this red carpet ride
Yes 1 know that the world’s spinning fast now
Tell lollabrigida to step aside!

Your mama’s welcoming the 60’s
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. Oh, oh, oh
Oh your mama’s welcoming the 60’s
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Go, mama, go, go, go!

Welcome to the 60’s
Open the door
For the girl who has more,
She’s a star…
Tracy, go, go, go!

(Tracy re-enters in a matching outfit.)

Oh mama, welcome to the 60’s
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. Oh, oh
Oh mama, welcome to the 60’s
Oh, oh. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. Oh
Go mama. Go, go, go!

Hey mama welcome to the 60’s

Welcome to the “6”, to the “0”
To the apostrophe “s”!

Hey mama welcome to the 60’s

(JUDINE riffs.)

Hey mama welcome to the 60’s

(SHAYNA riffs.)

Welcome to the 60’s
Go mama go, go, go!

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh. Oh, oh
Oh, oh. Oh, oh, oh
Go mama, go, go, go!!

Big, Blonde and Beautiful


Once upon a time
Girl i was just like you
Never let my extra large
Largesse shine through

Hair was brown and nappy
Never had no fun
I hid under a bushel
Which is easier said than done!

Then one day my grandma
Who was big and stout
She said you gotta love yourself
From inside out

And just as soon as i learned
How to strut my funky stuff
I found out that the world at large
Cant get enough so…

Bring on that pecan pie
Pour some sugar on it
Sugar don’t be shy

Scoop me up a mess
Of that chocolate swirl
Don’t be stingy,
I’m a growing girl

1 offer big love
With no apology
How can i deny the world
The most of me

I am not afraid
To throw my weight around
Pound by pound by pound
Because i’m
Big, blonde and beautiful
There is nothin’ ’bout me
That’s unsuitable

No one wants a meal
That only offers the least
When girl we’re servin’ up
The whole damn feast

Slice off a piece
Of that hog head cheese
Then take a look inside
My book of recipes

Now, don’t you sniff around
For something fluffy and light
I need a man who brings
A man-size… Appetite

I’ll use a pinch of sugar
And a dash of spice
I’ll let ya lick the spoon
Because it tastes so nice

I’ll keep it in my oven
‘Til it’s good and hot
Keep on stirring til it hits the spot
Because i’m…

Big, blonde and beautiful
And Edna girl, you’re lookin’ so
Why sit in the bleachers
Timid and afraid
When Edna,
You can be your own parade!

So? How ’bout it, Mama?

Well, I am big, I am blonde… ish, and if you say
I’m beautiful, I guess I’m beautiful. OK, I’ll do it!

Look out old Baltimore
We’re marching in
‘And we ain’t shufflin’
Through that old back door

And Tracy, i will join the fight
If i can keep up this pace

And girls, i’ll be right at your side
If i can find some space

So you can
Hold your head up
Just as big as ya please
You know they’ll hear me knockin’
With the two of these!

Tomorrow, side by side
We’ll show the world what’s right

Looks like i’m touchin’ up my roots tonight!

Then we’ll be
Big, blonde and beautiful
It’s time to face the fact
It’s irrefutable

Can’t ya hear that rumbling?
That’s our hunger to be free
It’s time to fin’ly taste

On mother/daughter day
Where thin is in,
We’re white as wool

Well ladies, big is back!
And as for black, it’s…


All shapes and sizes, follow me

Let’s bust their chops!

Quick, cali the cops!

We’re gonna dance our way to victory!
And get us on TV!

2…4…6…8…TV’S got to integrate!

Stay away! This isn’t Negro Day!

(Police sirens wail. Whistles blow. As the protesters continue their march, they are loaded into the addy wagon.)

You bet i’m big!

EDNA (pulling on Velmas hair)
This blond is gray!

Tracy, this was beautiful!

Big, blonde, and beautiful leads the way!

No one’s getting on TV today!

Run and Tell That

Hey Trace, my moms pitching a platter party at our record shop up off North Avenue. Wanna come “check it out”?

May i also come “check it out?

Oh, you surely may!

I’ve never been to North Avenue!

would it b safe up there for, you know… us?

Yeah dont worry cracker boy, It’s cool!

Imagine, being invited places by colored people!

It feels so hip!

I’m glad you feel that way, friends, ’cause not everybody does.

I can’t see
Why people look at me
And only see the color of my face
yes they do

And then there’s those
That try to help, god knows
But have to always put me in my place

Now i won’t ask you to be color blind
‘Cause if you pick the fruit
Then girl, you’re sure to find…

The blacker the berry
The sweeter the juice
I could say it ain’t so
But darlin’, what’s the use?

The darker the chocolate
The richer the taste
And that’s where it’s at…
…now run and tell that!!

Run and tell that!

Run and tell that!

Run and tell that!

I can’t see
Why people disagree
Each time i tell them what i know is true

And if you come
And see the world i’m from
I bet your heart is gonna feel it too

Yeah. I could lie
But baby. Let’s be bold
Vanilla be nice
But if the truth be told…

The blacker the berry
The sweeter the juice
I could say it ain’t so
But darlin’, what’s the use

The darker the chocolate
The richer the taste
And That’s where it’s at

Now run and tell that!!

Run and tell that!

(The scene shifts to Motormouth Maybelle’s record shop dance party where her daughter Li’l Inez and her friends are already in full swing.)

Hey, you’re Tracy Turnblad! You’re my favorite dancer on the Corny Collins Show.

This is my sister, Li’l Inez.

Yeah, I saw you at the auditions.

Well, you’re the only one who
did, ’cause they kicked me out
on my young, gifted and black

Tell ’em about it!

I’m tired of coverin’ up all my pride

So give me five on the black-hand side

I’ve got a new way of movin’
And i got my own voice

So how can i help
But to shout and rejoice

The people ’round here
Can barely pay their rent
They’re “try’n to make dollar
Out ‘a fifteen cent”
But we got a spirit
Money just cant buy

It’s deep as a river
It soars to the sky!!

I cant see
The reason it cant be
The kinda world where we all get our chance

The time is now
And we can show them how
To turn the music up and let’s all dance

‘Cause all things are equal
When it comes to love
Well, that ain’t quite true
‘Cause when a push comes to shove…

The blacker the berry
The sweeter the juice
I could say it ain’t so

But darlin’, what’s the use
The darker the chocolate
The richer the taste
That’s where it’s at

…Now run and tell that!!

Run and tell that!

Run and tell that!!

Good Morning Baltimore (Reprise)

Oh, oh, oh
I’m all alone
My heart has grown
But it’s broken, too

This morning
Life was a Baltimore fairy tale
Now i can’t make bail!

My mother’s in shock
My father’s in hock
I much prefer link’s arms
To jailhouse cells

So link, please rescue me now
‘Cause i love you
And this prison smells.
Link, hear the bells!

And get ready, Baltimore
There’s a bright, brand-new
Day in store
Let me out so this dream’s
I’ll eat some breakfast,
Then change the world!
And i promise Baltimore
Once i cha-cha right out of
That door
The world’s gonna wake up
And see
Link’s in love with me!

Timeless to Me

Styles keep a changin’
The world’s re-arrangin’
But Edna, you’re timeless to me
Hemlines are shorter
A beer costs a quarter
But time cannot take what comes free

You’re like a stinky old cheese, babe
Just gettin’ riper with age
You’re like a fatal disease, babe
But there’s no cure
So let this fever rage

Some folks can’t stand it
Say time is a bandit
But i take the opposite view
Cause when i need a lift
Time brings a gift
Another day with you
A twist or a waltz
It’s all the same schmaltz
With just a change in the scenery
You’ll never be old hat
That’s that! OoO
You’re timeless to me

Oh, Wilbur!

Fads keep a-fadin’
Castro’s invading!
But wilbur, you’re timeless to me
Hairdos are higher
Mine feels like barbed wire
But you say i’m chic as can be!

You’re like a rare vintage ripple
A vintage they’ll never forget
So pour me a teeny weenie triple
And we can toast the fact we ain’t dead yet!
I can’t stop eating
Your hairline’s receding
Soon there’ll be nothing at all
So, you’ll wear a wig
While i roast a pig
Hey! Pass that geritol

Glenn miller had class
That chubby checker’s a gas
But they all pass eventually
You’ll never be passe
Hip hooray!
You’re timeless to me

(They dance.)
Aw Edna baby dance with me!

Oh Wilbur! You make me feel like a girl again!

Oh honey show em’ the bumper!

Oh honey I think my bumper’s stuck in nuertral!

Well don’t break it, we may need that for later

Whaddya think of this one big boy?

Whoooooo yes, yes yes!

Can ya feel that all the way over there?
You’re like a broken down chevy
All you need is a fresh coat of paint

And Edna, you got me goin’ hot and heavy
You’re fat and old, but baby, boring you ain’t!

Some folks don’t get it
But we never fret it
‘Cause we know that time is our friend
It’s plain to see
That you’re stuck with me
Until the bitter end

And we got a kid
Who’s blowin’ the lid
Off the turnblad family tree

You’ll always hit the spot
Big shot!
You’re timeless to me

You’ll always be du jour
Mon amour
You’re timeless to me

You’ll always be first string


You’re timeless to me

You’re timeless to me

You’re timeless to me

You’re timeless to me!!

Without Love

LINK: Once I was a selfish fool
Who never understood
Never looked inside myself
Though on the outside, I looked good!
Then we met and you made me
The man I am today
Tracy, I’m in love with you
No matter what you weigh

Without love
Life is like the seasons with no summer
Without love
Life is rock ‘n’ roll without a drummer
Tracy, I’ll be yours forever
‘Cause I never wanna be
Without love
Tracy, never set me free
No, I ain’t lyin’
Never set me free, Tracy,
No, no, no!

Living in the ghetto
Black is everywhere you go
Who’d ‘ve thought I’d love a girl
With skin as white as winter’s snow

In my ivory tower
Life was just a hostess snack
But now I’ve tasted chocolate
And I’m never going back

‘Cause without love
Life is like a beat that you can’t follow
Without love
Life is Doris Day at the Apollo
Darling, I’ll be yours forever
‘Cause I never wanna be
Without love
So darlin’ never set me free

Oh, I’m yours forever
Never set me free

No, no, no!

If I’m left without my baby doll
I don’t know what I’ll do

Link, I’ve got to break out
So that I can get my hands on you

And girl, if I can’t touch you
I’m gonna lose control

Seaweed, you’re my black white knight
I’ve found my blue-eyed soul

Sweet freedom is our goal

Trace, I wanna kiss ya!

Let me out at the next toll!

‘Cause without love

Life is like a prom that won’t invite us

Without love

Life’s getting my big break and laryngitis

Without love

Life’s at ’45 when you can’t buy it

Without love

Life is like my mother on a diet!

Like a week that’s only Mondays
Only ice cream, never sundaes
Like a circle with no center
Like a door marked “do not enter!”

Darlin’ I’ll be yours forever
‘Cause I never wanna be
Without love
Yes, now you’ve captured me
Without love
I surrender happily
Without love
Seaweed never set me free
No no no
I ain’t lying
Never set me free
No no no
Pretty Penny little
No I don’t wanna live
Without love
Darlin’ you have best believed me,
Never, ever leave me
Without love

I Know Where I’ve Been

There’s a light
In the darkness
Though the night
Is black as my skin
There’s a light
Burning bright
Showing me the way
But i know where i’ve been

There’s a cry
In the distance
It’s a voice
That comes from deep within
There’s a cry
Asking why
I pray the answer’s up ahead
‘Cause i know where i’ve been

There’s a road
We’ve been travelin’
Lost so many on the way
But the riches
Will be plenty
Worth the price we
Had to pay

There’s a dream
In the future
There’s a struggle
We have yet to win
And there’s pride
In my heart
‘Cause i know
Where i’m going
And i know where i’ve been

There’s a road
We must travel
There’s a promise
We must make
‘Cause the riches
Will be plenty
Worth the risk
And chances that we take
There’s a dream
In the future
There’s a struggle

We have yet to win
Use that pride
In our hearts
To lift us up
To tomorrow

‘Cause just to sit still
Would be a sin

I know it, i know it
I know where i’m going

And lord knows i know..
Where i’ve been

Oh! When we win,
I’ll give thanks to my god
‘Cause i know where i’ve been


And now, live, from the certified up-to-code Baltimore Eventorium…
…for the first time ever on nationwide television…
it’s The Corny Collins Spectacular…

He’s Corny!!

…brought to you by Ultra Clutch Hairspray!

What gives a girl
Power and punch?
Is it charm, is it poise?
No, it’s hairspray!

What gets a gal
Asked out to lunch
Is it brains, is it dough?
No, it’s hairspray!

If you take a ride
With no can at your side
Then your flip will be gone
With the wind

But if you spray it and lock it,
You can take off in a rocket
And in outer space
Each hair will be in place

Why take a chance
When you get up and dance
If you twist, i insist
You use hairspray

And tell your mother
Her head she should smother
With “ultra-clutch” faithfully

So if you’re a redhead,
A blonde or brunette
Just take my advice
And you might just get
The only thing better than hairspray

That’s me!

Doo-dle-e-ya do wah

Forget the milkman
The only thing better than hairspray

Hairspray! Wow!

That’s me!

What makes a man
Reach out and touch?
Ultra clutch!

So if you’re a redhead,
A blonde or brunette
Just take my advice
And you might just get

The only thing better than hairspray
That’s me!

Doo-dle-e-ya do wah

He’s Corny Collins!

The only thing better than hairspray

Hairspray! Wow!

That’s me!

Ska-doo-dle-e-ya do wah
Ska-doo-dle-e-ya do wah!
Do wow!

“Hey, baby, you look like you could use a stiff one!”

Ska-doo-dle-e-ya-do do wah!!!!


Tracy Turnblad, this is for you
They came from way far out
In outer space


And with her help
They may destroy the human race

She’s got cooties!


They’ve found a place to nest

She’s got cooties


If i were her i’d be depressed
Long tailed, sharp nailed
Fuzzy legs, laying eggs

Eww, get ’em away from me,
get ’em away from me ewww!!

In science class
She’s like a walking show-and-tell


Her pet skunk ran away
‘Cause it couldn’t take the smell

She’s got cooties


Nobody want to sit by her

She’s got cooties


She don’t need a coat
‘Cause she’s got fur!
Circle, circle,

Dot, dot, dot

Hurry, get your cootie shot!
Come on everybody, let’s stamp ’em out!

She’s got cooties


She’s just as friendly as can be

She’s got cooties


She shows them cootie hospitality

She’s got cooties


She’s like a living twilight zone

She’s got cooties


Quick, get Rod Sterling on the phone!

Black, white, red, green

Every colour in between

Dresses like a circus clown

Somebody oughta hose her down

Grew up in a cootie zoo
I bet her two-ton mama’s got ’em too!

And that’s for you!

You Can’t Stop The Beat

You can’t stop an avalanche as it races down the hill
You can try to stop the seasons, girl, but you know you never will
And you can try to stop my dancing feet, but I just cannot stand still!
‘Cause the world keeps spinnin’ round and round
And my heart’s keepin’ time to the speed of the sound
I was lost ’til I heard the drums, then I found my way

‘Cause you can’t stop the beat
Ever since this whole world began
A woman found out if she shook it, she could shake up a man
And so I’m gonna shake and shimmy it the best that i can today
‘Cause you can’t stop the motion of the ocean or the sun in the sky
You can wonder, if you wanna, but I’ll never ask why
And if you try and hold me down I’m gonna spit in your eye and say
That you can’t stop the beat!

You can’t stop the river as it rushes to the sea
You can try to stop the hands of time, but you know it just can’t be!
And if they try to stop us, Seaweed, I’ll call the N double A C P
Cause the world keeps spinnin round and round
And my heart’s keepin time to the speed of sound
I was lost ’til I heard the drums, then I found my way

Cause you cant stop the beat!
Ever since we first saw the light
A man and woman like to shake it on a Saturday night
and so I’m gonna shake and shimmy it with all of my might today
Cause you cant stop the motion of the ocean, or the rain from above
you can try to stop the paradise we’re dreamin of
But you cannot stop the rhythm of two hearts in love to stay
Cause you cant stop the beat!

You can’t stop my happiness, cause I like the way I am
And you just can’t stop my knife and fork when I see a Christmas Ham!
So if you don’t like the way I look, well, I just dont give a damn!
Cause the world keeps spinnin’ round and round
and my hearts keepin time to the speed of sound
I was lost ’til I heard the drums, then I found my way
Cause you cant stop the beat
Ever since this whole world began
A woman found out if she shook it she could shake up a man
and so I’m gonna shake and shimmy it the best that I can today!
Cause you can’t stop the motion of the ocean or the sun in the sky
You can wonder, if you wanna, but I’ll never ask why
And if you try and hold me down, I’m gonna spit in your eye and say
That you can’t stop the beat!

Oh, Oh, Oh
You can’t stop today [No!]
As it comes speeding down the track [oooh, child yes!]
Yesterday is history [be gone!]
And it’s never comin back! [Look ahead, cause…]
Tomorrow is a brand new day, and it don’t know white from black [YEAH!]
‘Cause the world keeps spinnin’ round and round
And my heart’s keepin time to the speed of sound
I was lost til I heard the drums, then I found my way
‘Cause you cant stop the beat!
Ever since we first saw the light,
A man and woman like to shake it on a Saturday night
And so I’m gonna shake and shimmy it with all of my might today!
Cause you cant stop the motion of the ocean, or the rain from above
They can try to stop the paradise we’re dreamin of
But you cannot stop the rhythm of two hearts in love to stay
Cause you can’t stop the beat!

Aah, aah, aah,
Ahh, ahh, ahh
Ahh, ahh, ahh ahh
Ever since we first saw the sun
A man and woman like to shake it when the day is done
And so we’re gonna shake and shimmy it and have some fun today!
Cause you can’t stop the Motion of the ocean or the rain from above
You can try to stop the paradise were dreamin of
But you cannot stop the rhythm of two hearts in love to stay!

You cant stop the beat! (you cant stop the beat)
You cant stop the beat! (you cant stop the beat)

Rancho Viejo Review: Life in the California Suburbs

Rancho ViejoAt one of the continual neighborhood get-togethers in “Rancho Viejo,” Dan LeFranc’s new play at Playwrights Horizons about the residents of a fictional California suburb, one of the characters says he likes the weird books his college graduate son left in his garage: “They’re not exactly the kind of thing that’s gonna catch your attention from the start…they’re kinda like what I guess you’d call like a slow burn?” He then compares them to surfing: “I mean nothing’s happening out there for hours, but then if you’re patient the waves come rolling in one after the other….”

With this passage, the playwright is obliquely making a promise to the audience. And yes, waves do eventually roll in at “Rancho Viejo” – or at least the sounds of waves, during a nighttime scene at a beach. But “Rancho Viejo” is largely a tease of a play that is three long hours full of deliberate banality. The play, with a stellar cast portraying nine characters plus a dog, is subtitled “a suburban sprawl.” It mocks, or perhaps just reproduces, the desultory rhythms, affluent ennui and existential anxiety and loneliness of middle class, middle aged California suburban life. The design emphasizes the monotony; there is no effort to make the various living rooms look any different from one another.

Yet, at the same time, there are moments from the start that seem slightly off-kilter, leading to an accretion of weirdness that keeps us hoping it all will wind up meaning something.

While all nine characters (plus the dog) get their moments, “Rancho Viejo” focuses on the couple Pete (the always reliable Mark Blum) and Mary (Mare Winningham, the screen actress who has quietly triumphed as a regular on the New York stage.) They are the sort of couple so bland that their neighbors Gary and Patti (Mark Zeisler and Julia Duffy) keep on asking about Pete and Mary’s kids, not remembering that they don’t have any.

Gary and Patti do. We learn early that their adult son Richie (never seen on stage) is getting a divorce. This startles Pete, and then it obsesses him. His obsession with Richie’s divorce, which drives him to take odd action, is the closest that “Rancho Viejo” comes to a plot.

LeFranc is best known for “The Big Meal,” his 2012 play, also at Playwrights Horizons, that depicted one family at dinner over several generations. Rather than compressing decades of significant events into 90 minutes, as he did in that play, LeFranc now does the reverse, taking twice as long to stretch out minutia. One feels tempted to compare “Rancho Viejo” to “The Flick,” which also started at Playwrights Horizons, where it provoked complaints from some theatergoers that it was too long, but went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. Both plays take their time to offer small details about everyday life and emotions that feel well observed, both have moments of quiet amusement, and both, despite extraordinary casts and fine direction, are probably better reads than physical excursions for many theatergoers.

In the more diffuse “Rancho Viejo,” however, the playwright is playing games with our expectations. Weird things happen to Pete and Mary. Somebody calls them each morning and hangs up without speaking; it’s part of their morning ritual. They (and we) are mystified by the presence of a teenager named Taters (Ethan Dubin) at the various get-togethers of their middle-aged friends; their encounters with him weird them out, and, in the most gripping scene, scare Pete. In the most accessible action of the play, Mary, whose best friend has moved away, tries to become better friends with the other characters.

What does this add up to?

One senses that the characters are questioning (mostly unconsciously) the meaning of their lives. But the playwright seems more interested in exploring the meaninglessness of their lives, or perhaps of lives in general; there’s an absurdist and nihilist bent to “Rancho Viejo.” It’s not surprising that LeFranc has expressed his admiration for Samuel Beckett. Somebody might remind LeFranc that as Beckett got older (and wiser), his plays got shorter.


Rancho Viejo
At Playwrights Horizons
Written by Dan LeFranc
Directed by Daniel Aukin
Set design by Dane Laffrey, lighting design by Matt Frey, costume design by Jessica Pabst, sound design by Leon Rothenberg
Cast: Mare Winningham, Mark Blum, Julia Duffy, Bill Buell, Ruth Aguilar, Ethan Dubin, Tyrone Mitchell Henderson, Lusia Strus, Mark Zeisler.
Running time: Three hours, including two intermissions.
Tickets: $39 to $89
“Rancho Viejo” is scheduled to run through December 23, 2016.


Watch Tony Kushner, Stephen Schwartz et al talk about their work

Below, ten major theater artists are interviewed by their peers as part of the Dramatist Guild Fund’s Legacy Project

TONY KUSHNER Interviewed By Michael Friedman

GRETCHEN CRYER & NANCY FORD Interviewed By Georgia Stitt

MICKI GRANT Interviewed By Charlayne Woodard

LARRY KRAMER Interviewed By George C. Wolfe

JAMES LAPINE Interviewed By Lisa Kron

ALAN MENKEN Interviewed By Kristen Anderson-Lopez

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ Interviewed By Jeanine Tesori
Released later this month

JOHN PATRICK SHANLEY Interviewed By Stephen Adly Guirgis

JOHN WEIDMAN Interviewed By J.T. Rogers

Harry Potter Kicks Out Paramour. The Trump Effect. Lin-Manuel Inc. Week in NY Theater

The world may feel as if it’s coming to an end (see The Trump Effect, below), but the future looks promising for the theater, even in the few weeks remaining of this year, with several intriguing shows still to open (December theater openings) – and that doesn’t even count Hairspray Live on Wednesday.

Or La La Land, which opens in movie theaters on Thursday

Or the 1966 rediscovered Glass Menagerie starring Shirley Booth on TCM on Thursday (See New York Theater News below.)

Did you take the November New York Theater Quiz yet?



The Trump Effect

It’s been almost four weeks since Election Day, but those who didn’t support the winner – including much of the theater community – remain in shock. One manifestation of this, as I write in an essay for HowlRound, is in a changed perception of what’s happening on stage at nearly every show since then, from “Master Harold….and the boys” to “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” and even “Sweet Charity.” (Also included in the article are links to reactions by a variety of critics and theater artists.)

Theater artists have begun to mobilize, such as the newly formed Broadway Advocacy Coalition which on Sunday night held a combination concert and conference entitled “The Invitation: The American Hangover.”

Here is Brandon Victor Dixon’s appearance at the event, which was held in an auditorium at Columbia University:

Also presenting at the event were performers Ben Vereen and Condola Rashad, and Fun Home composer Jeanine Tesori, who revealed that she’s taking courses at the law school.

Week in New York Theater Reviews

The song "You Will Be Found" from "Dear Evan Hansen"

The song “You Will Be Found” from “Dear Evan Hansen”

Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen” has changed now that it’s on Broadway, in ways that make it an even more affecting musical. Ben Platt’s performance, impressive from the get-go, is even better. But what’s changed the most is the world outside the theater, turning the story of a lie that gets out of hand into something more realistic and unfortunately more relevant…

The Illusionists


For its third annual holiday appearance on Broadway, The Illusionists, a variety showcase for a rotating group of magicians and stunt performers, has a new subtitle, “Turn of the Century,” which may be an attempt to spin overly familiar acts as vintage classics…Luckily, The Illusionists also includes Justo Thaus, aka The Grand Carlini — who executes some equally antediluvian tricks involving a little red ball but at least does it using marionettes — and Jonathan Goodwin, who is dubbed The Daredevil.

Emily Rohm

Emily Rohm

Ride The Cyclone

“Ride the Cyclone” begins with six teenagers from the high school choir of a small Canadian town dying on a roller coaster called the Cyclone. Then, one by one, we hear their stories – or, more accurately, we get a show-stopping musical number out of each one of them. If the musical feels largely derivative, it features an appealing, talented cast, a dozen witty, energetic songs in a variety of popular styles, and a spectacular design for such a small-scale show. Although the characters are dead, that doesn’t stop them from being fun and funny, albeit in a familiar way. Viewers might immediately think of “Glee,” or any number of peppy musical comedies. But I thought of Thornton Wilder….

Week in New York Theater News


lyric-marquee-with-paramourAlthough there was some confusion due to a misleading press release put out by Cirque de Soleil, the real story is that the owners of the Lyric, Ambassador Theatre Group, aka ATG, plan to renovate the Lyric in hopes of its housing in 2018 “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” now playing to sold-out audiences at the Palace in London’s West End. ATG is therefore kicking out “Paramour” in April, 2017.

It’s unclear whether Paramour will be able to find another Broadway theater that’s open and suits its needs. Paramour was critically panned when it opened in May, and, while it often grosses close to a million dollars a week, that represents little more than half of its potential, and it has among the lowest percentage of seats filled; the Lyric, as presently configured, is the largest house on Broadway, with more than 1,900 seats. (The second largest is the Gershwin, where Wicked consistently ranks among the highest attended Broadway shows.) The aim of the renovation is in part to reduce the number of seats.

Jersey Boys Drew Seeley Nick Dromard Matt Bogart Mark Ballas

“Jersey Boys” creators found guilty of copyright infringement in lawsuit brought by widow of ghost writer.


The Humans will close on Broadway on January 15, 2017. Come From Away had already announced that it will begin performances at Schoenfeld (where The Humans is playing) on February 18. The Humans will launch a national tour next November.


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a “ticket bot bill” making it a crime for scalpers to use computer software to purchase tickets


Fifty years to the day after it was first broadcast, the famously “lost” 1966 TV production of  The Glass Menagerie starring Shirley Booth as Amanda, Hal Holbrook as Tom, Barbara Loden as Laura and Pat Hingle as the gentleman caller has been found and restored, and is scheduled to air Thursday, December 8 on TCM. Of note, it was directed by British director Michael Elliott, who is the father of Marianne Elliott, the director of “War Horse” and “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
The first TV version of Tennessee Williams play was in 1950, starring Jane Wyman as Laura, Kirk Douglas as the Gentleman caller, Gertrude Lawrence as Amanda, and Arthur Kennedy as Tom.

Lin-Manuel Miranda Is Busy

Good news/bad news. Good news: Hamilton grossed a record-breaking $3.3 million (Take that, #BoycottHamilton!) Bad news: The top ticket price was $998


The Hamilton Mixtape was released this past week.

The day before, there was a Hamilton Mixtape concert livestreamed  from the Richard Rodgers Theater, featuring QuestLove of The Roots


and his bandmate Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter; Joell Ortiz (who sang “My Shot” with Black Thought), Regina Spektor (“Dear Theodosia”)


Andra Day (“Burn”)


Ashanti with Ja Rule (“Helpless”)


Three observations about the  concert

1. longest #Ham4Ham ever

2. shortest #rapconcert ever

3. More women proportionally than in the musical

(To learn more about the books, and/or buy them, check out 3 Book Set of The Kingkiller Chronicle Series (The Name of the Wind, Wise Man’s Fear and The Slow Regard of Silent Things))


Click here for discount tickets to the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes


The Illusionists-Turn of the Century: Review, pics, video

For its third annual holiday appearance on Broadway, The Illusionists, a variety showcase for a rotating group of magicians and stunt performers, has a new subtitle, “Turn of the Century,” which may be an attempt to spin overly familiar acts as vintage classics.


Full review on The Stage 


Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway: Review, pics, video

“Dear Evan Hansen” has changed now that it’s on Broadway, in ways that make it an even more affecting musical. Ben Platt’s performance, impressive from the get-go, is even better. But what’s changed the most is the world outside the theater, turning the story of a lie that gets out of hand into something more realistic and unfortunately more relevant.

Click on any photograph by Matthew Murphy to see it enlarged.

The plot’s trajectory seemed fanciful to me half a year ago, before the subject of “viral fake news” itself went viral. It is also bracing to realize that I omitted an important and relevant matter with which the musical deals…how much Evan and his mother Heidi (Rachel Bay Jones) are struggling financially, and how resentful Heidi is..

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

December 2016 New York Theater Openings

Four shows are opening on Broadway this month, three of them new musicals: “A Bronx Tale” marks the Broadway debut of Robert De Niro as a “co-director,” although Jerry Zaks is reportedly doing the heavy lifting.  “Dear Evan Hansen,”  a cult hit Off Broadway by the team of Pasek and Paul, is transferring to the Music Box.  And “In Transit,” another Off-Broadway hit, is co-written by Kristin Anderson-Lopez, who went on to compose the music with her husband Bobby Lopez for “Frozen.”

But some of the most thrilling theater in December is happening Off-Broadway — including “Othello” directed by Sam Gold, starring David Oyelowo and Daniel Craig; Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) in an adaptation of the bestseller “Tiny Beautiful Things” directed by Hamilton’s Tommy Kail; and “The Dead, 1904,” starring Boyd Gaines and Kate Burton, a re-creation of the dinner party at the center of James Joyce’s “The Dead,” in which theatergoers are among the dinner guests.

And then, this being December, there are Christmas plays up the wazoo — too numerous to include here.

Below is a selection of the plays, musicals and less easily categorized theater pieces opening in December, organized chronologically by opening date. Each title is linked to a relevant website. Also included are links to buy tickets (if you can’t get them at the box office.)

Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Purple or Blue. Off Off Broadway: Green.
To look at the season as a whole, check out Broadway Preview Guide 2016-17 and Off-Broadway Fall 2016

Ad: Click here to sign up for discount ticket offers

December 1

A Bronx Tale (Longacre)

A Bronx Tale The Musical Pre-opening information; subject to change A Bronx Tale The Musical View More Images Longacre Theatre, (12/01/2016 - ) First Preview: Nov 03, 2016 Total Previews: Opening Date: Dec 01, 2016 Closing Date: Total Performances: Category: Musical, Drama, Original, Broadway A Bronx Tale The Musical tickets Official Website Opening Night Credits Production Staff Theatre Owned / Operated by The Shubert Organization (Philip J. Smith: Chairman; Robert E. Wankel: President) Produced by Tommy Mottola, The Dodgers and Tribeca Productions Book by Chazz Palminteri; Music by Alan Menken; Lyrics by Glenn Slater; Musical Director: Jonathan Smith; Music arranged by Ron Melrose; Music orchestrated by Doug Besterman Directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks; Choreographed by Sergio Trujillo Scenic Design by Beowulf Boritt; Costume Design by William Ivey Long; Lighting Design by Howell Binkley; Sound Design by Gareth Owen; Hair and Wig Design by Paul Huntley; Make-Up Design by Anne Ford-Coates Musical Supervisor: Ron Melrose Casting: Tara Rubin Casting; Press Representative: Boneau / Bryan-Brown; Fight Coordinator: Robert Westley Cast Richard H. Blake Lorenzo Nick Cordero Sonny Ariana DeBose Jane Lucia Giannetta Rosina Bradley Gibson Tyrone Bobby Conte Thornton Broadway debut Calogero Hudson Loverro Broadway debut Young Calogero Athan Sporek Young Calogero Alternate Gilbert L. Bailey II Joe Barbara Michael Barra Broadway debut Jonathan Brody Ted Brunetti Brittany Conigatti Kaleigh Cronin Trista Dollison David Michael Garry Rory Max Kaplan Dominic Nolfi Christiani Pitts Broadway debut Paul Salvatoriello Broadway debut Joseph J. Simeone Joey Sorge Cary Tedder Kirstin Tucker Swings: Michelle Aravena, Gerald Caesar, Charlie Marcus, Wonu Ogunfowora and Keith WhiteThe Bronx Tale, about a youth in the Bronx who against the wishes of his father gets involved in organized crime,  began life as a one-man show written and performed by Chazz Palminteri. It was then made into 1993 directed by and co-starring Robert De Niro. De Niro is co-directing the musical with Jerry Zaks, marking De Niro’s Broadway directorial debut.


Iluminate (New World Stages) 


Acrobatic dancing by performers wearing glow-in-the-dark costumes

My review of Iluminate  at a previous venue


December 3

Sgt. Stubby (St. Lukes Theater)


Subtitled “The Great American War Dog Musical,” the family-friendly show is inspired by the true story of a stray from New Haven, Connecticut who became a hero in World War I.


December 4

Dear Evan Hansen (Music Box)


A high school student pretends to have been best friends with a classmate who committed suicide in this musical by the songwriters of A Christmas Story: The Musical. This was a cult favorite Off-Broadway.  My review when it was Off-Broadway.


The Illusionists (The Palace)


On Broadway for the third holiday season in a row, The Illusionists will present magic from the early 20th century,

My review the first time around.


Sing (Theatre at St. Clements)


A South African and American Holiday Musical celebration starring and directed by Thula Dumakude.

December 5

The Babylon Line (Lincoln Center)


A play by Richard Greenberg about a writer from bohemian Greenwich Village who commutes to Levittown to teach a creative writing class that includes one student that reawakens his own artistic impulses. The cast includes Josh Radnor and Elizabeth Reaser.


December 6

Rancho Viejo (Playwrights Horizons) 

Rancho Viejo

In Dan LeFranc’s comedy of anxiety and awkward neighbors, the residents of the (fictional) affluent suburb of Rancho Viejo drift from one gathering to the next, wrestling life’s grandest themes while fending off existential despair — set against the lustful, yearning strains of a distant bolero. The cast includes Mark Blum and Mare Winningham.

December 7

Tiny Beautiful Things (The Public) 

Tiny Beautiful Things for calendar

Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) plays Sugar, an anonymous online advice columnist in a Vardalos’ stage adaptation of the book of the same name by Cheryl Strayed. Directed by Thomas Kail (Hamilton.)


December 8

The Band’s Visit (Atlantic Theater)


This musical with a book by Itamar Moses (Fortress of Solitude) and music by David Yazbek (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), and directed by David Cromer (Our Town), with a cast including Tony Shalhoub and John Cariani, is an adaptation the 2007 film about an Egyptian Police Band that arrives in Israel to play a concert but is sent by mistake to a remote village in the middle of the desert.


Anna Christie (The Wild Project) 


Eugene O’Neill’s drama of a woman torn between the expectations of men and the secrets of her past, gets a timely retelling under the direction of Peter Roberts.

The Dead, 1904 (Irish Rep)


Based on the novella by James Joyce, “The Dead,1904 is a new adaptation in which an audience of 40 guests will themselves attend the Misses Morkan’s holiday party, move from room to room with the actors, listen to the music, watch the dances, dine on a meal inspired by the menu in the novella, and observe the characters in their interactions.  The production will take place in an authentic Victorian mansion.” It stars Kate Burton and Boyd Gaines.

December 11

In Transit (Circle in the Square)



Broadway’s first a capella musical — no orchestra — chronicles the intertwining lives of 11 subway riders. It was a  hit Off-Broadway in 2010. Co-written by Kristin Lopez-Anderson, now known for Frozen. Its 16-member cast includes Justin Guarini, Telly Leung and Erin Mackey.


December 12

Othello (NY Theatre Workshop)


Sam Gold directs David Oyelowo (Selma) in the title role and Daniel Craig (Betrayal, Spectre) as Iago in Shakespeare’s tragedy.


December 14

Nina Conti In Your Face (Barrow Street Theater) 


With handcrafted masks that transform audience members into “live puppets,” along with her sidekick, the “foul-mouthed” Monkey, Conti creates a hilarious new show nightly. This is ventriloquism for a new generation

Martin Luther On Trial (The Pearl)


With Satan as the prosecutor and Luther’s wife for the defense, witnesses including Adolf Hitler, Sigmund Freud, Rabbi Josel, St. Paul, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Pope Francis take the stand. Even as 2017 marks 500 years since Luther ignited the Protestant Revolt against Rome, he continues to spark intense debate

December 19

Bright Colors and Bold Patterns (Barrow Street Theatre) 


A one-man show written by and starring Drew Droege. “Josh and Brennan are about to get married in Palm Springs on a lovely Saturday afternoon. However, the night before becomes a drunken, drug-fueled scream riot, because their friend Gerry has arrived, furious that their invitation says “please refrain from wearing bright colors or bold patterns.”

Watch Hamilton Mixtape Concert Live, Then Buy It.


Live from the Hamilton stage at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City, some of the recording artists in the Hamilton Mixtape — songs directly from, or related to, the Hamilton musical — perform at 1 p.m. December 1st. It was live-streamed here. (Click to the middle to see the concert)

Buy The Hamilton Mixtape , released December 2, 2016.

Songs and Artists in Hamilton Mixtape
No John Trumbull (Intro)
by The Roots

My Shot (feat. Busta Rhymes, Joell Ortiz & Nate Ruess) [Rise Up Remix]
by The Roots

Wrote My Way Out [Clean]
by Nas, Dave East, Lin-Manuel Miranda & Aloe Blacc

Wait For It
by Usher

An Open Letter (feat. Shockwave) [Interlude] [Clean]
by Watsky

Satisfied (feat. Miguel & Queen Latifah)
by Sia

Dear Theodosia (feat. Ben Folds)
by Regina Spektor

Valley Forge (Demo) [Clean]
by Lin-Manuel Miranda

It’s Quiet Uptown
by Kelly Clarkson

That Would Be Enough
by Alicia Keys

Immigrants (We Get The Job Done) [Clean]
by K’naan, Snow Tha Product, Riz MC, Residente

You’ll Be Back
by Jimmy Fallon & The Roots

Helpless (feat. Ja Rule)
by Ashanti

Take A Break (Interlude)
by !llmind

Say Yes To This
by Jill Scott

by Dessa

by Andra Day

Stay Alive (Interlude)
by J.PERIOD & Stro Elliot

Cabinet Battle 3 (Demo)
by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Washingtons By Your Side
by Wiz Khalifa

History Has Its Eyes On You
by John Legend

Who Tells Your Story (feat. Common & Ingrid Michaelson)
by The Roots

Dear Theodosia (Reprise)
by Chance The Rapper & Francis and The Lights