The Present with Cate Blanchett: Review, Pics

Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh

Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh

About halfway through The Present, an adaptation of Chekhov’s first play, Cate Blanchett, as a Russian general’s widow celebrating her 40th birthday, shoots off a shotgun, dances atop a table, and pours vodka on her head. It is an attention-grabbing moment in Blanchett’s Broadway debut performance – and one of the show’s few unmitigated pleasures…

There are those who are fans of the two-time Oscar winner who will find her performance entertaining enough to obliterate any other concerns, or who have the patience and curiosity to appreciate the production’s complex texture and thought-provoking themes of loss, regret, paralysis, desire, loneliness, fear of change — who will feel good for having experienced Quality Theater.  And then there are the rest of us, who wish it were shorter.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged.

January 2017 Theater Openings Broadway, Off Broadway, and Off-Off Broadway

Two Broadway shows are opening this month, and fewer than a half dozen Off-Broadway, but January is as usual one of the most robust months for theater in New York.

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Billboards outside the Public Theater advertising Under the Radar, one of the winter theater festivals

That’s because there are more than 100 works of theater at some dozen winter theater festivals, although the shows, largely experimental, each run for only a handful of performances. (Check out my separate preview guide for Winter Theater Festivals in New York 2017)

This month also marks the debut of  the new theater complex at 53rd Street and Tenth Avenue run by the Alliance of Resident Theaters (A.R.T.), now home to a dozen acclaimed New York theater companies without buildings of their own. (See January 22 below for the theaters’ first two openings.)

Below is a list, organized chronologically by opening date, with each title linked to a relevant website. Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Purple or Blue. Off Off Broadway: Green.

To look at the Spring season as a whole, check out my Broadway Spring 2017 Preview Guide and my Off Broadway Spring 2017 Preview Guide.

January 8

Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh

Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh

The Present (Ethel Barrymore)

Cate Blanchett makes her Broadway debut as (once) wealthy widow Anna Petrovna celebrating her 40th birthday in this new play based on Anton Chekhov’s first play Platonov, with the action transposed to the 1990s.

Mark Felt, Superstar (York)

mark-felt-at-yorkA jazzy musical about Mark Felt Deputy Director of the FBI, who revealed himself as Deep Throat, the secret source about Watergate who helped Woodward and Bernstein bring down President Richard Nixon.

 

January 14

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Mope (Ensemble Studio Theater) 

An examination of a country poisoned by toxic masculinity, hiding inside a comedy about guys who do porn.

January 15

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Made in China (59E59)

A topical puppet musical inspired by true events (!): “An isolated woman finds solace in shopping. After one of her big-box sprees, she finds a cry-for-help note, written by a woman in a Chinese labor camp, stuffed in a box of Halloween lights. Inspired into activism, she embarks on an odyssey of global proportions.”

January 17

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The Dork Knight (Abingdon at Dorothy Strelsin Theatre)

Jason O’Connell’s solo show tracing the ups and downs of his life through the prism of his love/hate relationship with the ‘Batman’ movies.

 

January 18

The Tempest

The Tempest (St. Ann’s Warehouse)

Donmar Warehouse’s all female staging of Shakespeare’s play, set in a woman’s prison, directed by Phyllida Lloyd and starring Harriet Walter. This is the last production of a splendidly theatrical trilogy by the same team, starting with Julius Caesar in 2013 and then Henry IV in 2015.

January 19

jitney-cast

Jitney (Samuel J. Friedman)

Broadway premiere of Wilson’s first play, the only work from his The American Century Cycle never previously seen on Broadway. Set in the early 1970’s, the story follows a group of men who drive unlicensed cabs or jitneys.

 

Born to Rise (Medicine Show Theater) 

A revival of the 1984 musical based on four 19th century novels by Horatio Alger, in which four poor but hopeful young New Yorkers make their way up the social ladder

 

January 22

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Peer Gynt & the Norwegian Hapa Band (Ma-Yi at ART/NY Mezzanine Theater)

A rock ‘n’ roll remake of Ibsen’s classic verse drama

 

 

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The Great American Drama (New York Neofuturists at A.R.T./NY Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre)

An ever-changing theatrical experiment to test the validity of the American Dream. Through interviews & surveys, you’ll tell us how you like your theater and what would make you buy a ticket, and four Neo-Futurists will strive to deliver everything demanded of them.

the-oregon-trail-poster

The Oregon Trail (Fault Line Theatre)

Jane and her family navigate the deadly perils of 1850s frontier life in a covered wagon as part of a game, while present day Jane navigates the different but all-too-real dangers of high school, college, and adulthood

January 23

Selenis Leyva and Dascha Polanco Tell Hector I Miss Him,

Selenis Leyva and Dascha Polanco Tell Hector I Miss Him,

Tell Hector I Miss Him (Atlantic)

The new play by Paolo Lazaro takes place in Puerto Rico,  and “unmasks a community built on the law of respect that keeps getting washed away but refuses to drown.” The cast includes Dascha Polanco and Selenis Leyva, who play Dayanara Diaz and Gloria Mendoza, respectively, in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black.

 

January 26

the-liar-banner

The Liar (CSC)

David Ives adapts  Pierre Corneille’s 17th Century farce of mistaken identities and secrets, Le Menteur, directed by Michael Kahn. The charming Dorante cannot tell the truth and the manservant Cliton cannot tell a lie

January 31

yen-stars

Yen (MCC) 

In Anna Jordan’s play,  Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), and Justice Smith (The Get Down) portray two brothers ignored by their mother, who are drawn into a world beyond what they know when their animal-loving neighbor Jenny takes an interest in their dog Taliban.

Broadway Poll: Favorite Spring 2017 Show?

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Choose the show that you are most looking forward to. The list below is for shows that have opening dates on Broadway in the Spring 2017 as of this writing, and they are listed chronologically by opening date.

For more information about any of the shows, see the Broadway Spring 2017 Preview Guide

Poll: The Worst Broadway Show of 2016

Welcome to my fifth annual Worst Broadway Show poll. I chose these ten nominees; this is my Bottom 10 list this year (a counterbalance to my Top 10 list.) If you disagree with my choices, you can express this by 1. not voting for a show on the list that you liked; 2. adding your choice for worst in the “Other” slot if it’s not one of the ten below; 3. Making a comment in the comments section beneath the poll.
Judge the quality of the show as you see it, not whether it did well at the box office.
The ten choices below are arranged alphabetically. (Only shows that opened in 2016 qualify.)

 

Below are links to my reviews of these shows, which make clear why I did not like them:

American Psycho

Blackbird

Disaster

Heisenberg

Holiday Inn

Hughie

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Oh, Hello

Our Mothers Brief Affair

Paramour

In Transit on Broadway: Review, Pics, Video

“In Transit” is the first a cappella musical on Broadway, and the rich harmonies and rhythmic beatboxing of a cappella evangelist Deke Sharon’s arrangements reveal the human voice as the most flexible of musical instruments. Unfortunately, the freshness of the voice-only orchestra doesn’t completely compensate for the flat familiarity of much else in the musical…”In Transit” features 11 appealing and accomplished performers portraying some 40 subway-riding New Yorkers….Luckily, “In Transit” has several assets that help us try to put aside its bland stories.

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged.

A Bronx Tale Review

 Bobby Conte Thornton as Calogero and Nick Cordero as Sonny


Bobby Conte Thornton as Calogero and Nick Cordero as Sonny

“A Bronx Tale,” the new Broadway musical co-directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks, tells a story that its author, Chazz Palminteri, says is true: He really did witness a mob killing as a kid in the Bronx and kept quiet about it, winning over the local mobster, who became in effect his second father – posing a challenge to Palminteri’s real father, an honest bus driver. Palminteri also really did date an African-American girl when he was a teenager.

But the musical that’s opened at the Longacre – the third “A Bronx Tale,” after Palminteri’s solo stage play that debuted Off-Broadway in 1989, and the 1993 De Niro movie – seems based less on a true story than on other Broadway musicals. The characters feel borrowed from “Jersey Boys” and “Guys and Dolls,” the plot in Act II from “West Side Story.” And Alan Menken’s score, a pleasing if generic mix of doo-wop and Motown and Broadway ballads, manages to make “A Bronx Tale” feel like an old jukebox musical, even though all of the songs are original and none of them likely to become hits.

Robert De Niro, co-director of A Bronx Tale

Robert De Niro, co-director of A Bronx Tale

This familiarity has its advantages. There’s a Broadway sheen to “A Bronx Tale,” a show that is put together by a group of seasoned Broadway pros. (The single exception is De Niro, making his Broadway debut as a director, although his contribution to the end result is less clear than Zaks’.)

Now, it may be true that each member of the creative team has done his best work elsewhere, and that “A Bronx Tale” is unlikely to make anybody’s top 10 list. But the show is also unlikely to disappoint theatergoers nostalgic for the old neighborhood and the old-time Broadway show. There is an audience for surface entertainment if it’s polished enough. So, yes, maybe the grit from the old Italian-American neighborhood of Belmont Avenue has been scrubbed clean, but there is craftsmanship on display in the look of the show, from the set design by Beowulf Boritt (Act One, On The Town) that cleverly suggests a fire escape-dotted tenement neighborhood circa 1960 to the lighting design by Howell Binkley (Hamilton) that bathes the stage in hues of hot red and jazzy blue. The choreography by Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys, On Your Feet) is efficient and effective.

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged.

The same can be said about the cast. The character Calogero — stand-in for Chazz Palminteri (whose real first name is Calogero) — is portrayed by two actors. Hudson Loverro is terrific as a swaggering nine-year-old Calogero. As the teenage Calogero, Bobby Conte Thornton, who supplies the (often unnecessary) narration, has good looks and a good voice, and isn’t required to act very much. Ariana DeBose is a charming and mellifluous presence as Jane, the only woman character that has anything approaching a distinctive personality. Richard H. Blake portrays Lorenzo, Calagero’s father, a stolid counterpoint to the more exciting Sonny.

As Sonny, Nick Cordero shines in A Bronx Tale, a mobster as cool and generous as Sinatra, and as casually ruthless as any Goodfella. When he takes Calogero under his wing, there seems genuine affection there, and it’s clear why Calogero would become besotted, especially after Sonny in an act of mercy gives Calogero the nickname “C.” At the same time, Cordero’s Sonny isn’t a panda bear; he can turn vicious on a dime, and he trusts no one — traits that he himself sees as limitations.   Cordero even sings my favorite song in the show, “One of the Great Ones,” and is the main voice in the amusing “Nicky Machiavelli.” Nick Cordero is, in short, the best thing about “A Bronx Tale.”

Ironically, the actor feels rescued from “Waitress,” in which he had the thankless role of the abusive husband Earl; before that, he was the best thing by far in the stage adaptation of “Bullets Over Broadway.” This poses an interesting dilemma: Is it better to have a mediocre role in a good show, or be the best thing in a mediocre one?

 

A Bronx Tale

Longacre Theater

Book by Chazz Palminteri; Music by Alan Menken; Lyrics by Glenn Slater; Choreography by Sergio Trujillo; Directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks

Set designed by Beowulf Boritt, costumes designed by William Ivey Long, lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound designed by Gareth Owen

Cast Nick Cordero, Richard H. Blake, Bobby Conte Thornton, Ariana DeBose, Lucia Giannetta, Bradley Gibson, Gilbert L. Bailey II, Joe Barbara, Michael Barra, Jonathan Brody, Ted Brunetti, Brittany Conigatti, Kaleigh Cronin, Trista Dollison, David Michael Garry, Rory Max Kaplan, Dominic Nolfi, Christiani Pitts, Paul Salvatoriello, Joey Sorge, Cary David Tedder, Kirstin Tucker, Keith White, Michelle Aravena, Gerald Caesar, Charlie Marcus, Wonu Ogunfowora, Hudson Loverro and Joseph J. Simeone

Running time: Two hours, including on intermission

Tickets: $77 to $187

 

Buy tickets to A Bronx Tale

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.

Tickets

Iluminate (New World Stages) 

ILUMINATE 2

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

My review of Iluminate  at a previous venue

Tickets

December 3

Sgt. Stubby (St. Lukes Theater)

st-stubby

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.

Tickets

December 4

Dear Evan Hansen (Music Box)

dear-evan-hansen-for-calendar

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.

Tickets

The Illusionists (The Palace)

the-illusionists-2016-for-calendar

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.

Tickets

Sing (Theatre at St. Clements)

sing

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

December 5

The Babylon Line (Lincoln Center)

the-babylong-line

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.

Tickets 

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.)

Tickets 

December 8

The Band’s Visit (Atlantic Theater)

the-bands-visit

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.

Tickets

Anna Christie (The Wild Project) 

anna-christie-for-calendar

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)

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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)

I

I

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.

Tickets

December 12

Othello (NY Theatre Workshop)

othello-for-calendar

 

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

Tickets

December 14

Nina Conti In Your Face (Barrow Street Theater) 

nina-conti

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)

martin-luther-on-trial-for-calendar

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) 

bright-colors

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.”

What to See on Broadway Thanksgiving Week 2016

The turkey float in the Thanksgiving Day parade

The 90th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will feature (as it traditionally does) numbers from Broadway musicals — on CBS, The Color Purple,  On Your Feet, and School of Rock; on NBC, Cats, Holiday Inn, Paramour and Waitress. But you can also see the whole shows on Broadway during Thanksgiving Week.

Scroll down to the bottom for  the Broadway schedule for the week — most shows are dark on Thanksgiving Day, but have added matinees for the day after.

Here too are my recommendations, first for new shows that have opened this season so far, and then evergreens suitable for young children.

Recommended New Shows

In truth, I can only wholeheartedly recommend one show that’s opened on Broadway this season so far, so the following list is stacked with Off-Broadway shows. In alphabetical order:

Finian’s Rainbow

finians-rainbow-5-mark-evans-and-melissa-errico

At the Irish Rep, a four-piece orchestra and a 13-member cast led by the glorious Melissa Errico do delicious justice to the show’s terrific tuneful melodies, written by composer Burton Lane (whose long career on Broadway and in Hollywood included the discovery of Judy Garland) and lyricist Yip Harburg (who wrote the lyrics to more than 500 songs, including “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”, “April in Paris”, and many of the songs for “The Wizard of Oz.”) The 15 songs in “Finian’s Rainbow” are an inspiring mix of Irish folk tunes, Southern mountain melodies, Tin Pan Alley, gospel and the blues.

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

An opera with an unwieldy title based on Tolstoy’s War and Peace might seem like an unlikely crowd-pleaser, but Great Comet is the freshest, most inviting show on Broadway this season, especially awesome in its stagecraft. Nineteen of the cast members are making their Broadway debuts, including Josh Groban, who is stellar.

Notes From the Field

Notes from the Field 5

Anna Deavere Smith  portrays 17  disparate characters with her usual dazzling virtuosity, in presenting her argument that there is a school to prison “pipeline” for poor people and people of color.

Sweat

Khris Davis and Will Pullen as friends who wind up in prison.

Khris Davis and Will Pullen as friends who wind up in prison.

Like Grapes of Wrath, Lynn Nottage’s play 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 live in Reading, Pennsylvania, which 2010 U.S. Census data identified as the poorest city in America.

Vietgone

Jennifer Ikeda as Tong and Raymond Lee as Quang

Jennifer Ikeda as Tong and Raymond Lee as Quang

Qui Nguyen’s rap-infused play about two Vietnamese refugees who fall in love is as puckish as a comic book. But 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.

Broadway shows for young children

Aladdin

James Monroe Iglehart

James Monroe Iglehart

The genie is James Monroe Iglehart, and he is the one who provides the bulk of the entertainment, morphing from showbiz master of ceremonies to carnival barker to infomercial huckster to game show host to Cab Calloway-like zoot-suiter to disco dj to hip-hopper in a Hawaiian shirt, to yes, a sparkling-suited magical genie who emerges amid smoke from a little lamp. Every number over which he presides – nearly every moment he is on stage –  answers the question that fans of the 1992 film Aladdin might have wondered about: How would Disney be able to translate to the stage the protean cartoon character of genie voiced by Robin Williams at his peak? The answer is James Monroe Iglehart, and the answer satisfies.

Tickets to Aladdin

The Lion King

CircleofLifefromLionKing

Based on the 1994 Disney animated film about the coming-of-age of a young lion in the African jungle, this musical offers African-inflected music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice and the visual magic of Julie Taymor. Taymor is the director, a composer and lyricist for some of the songs. But above all, she is the designer of the costumes, masks, and puppets — and it is these visuals that make this show a good first theatrical experience — and worthwhile for any theatergoer no matter how experienced.

Tickets to The Lion King

Matilda

Matilda 10

“Matilda” is based on Roald Dahl’s dark children’s book about a girl with extraordinary gifts who is at first unappreciated by the adults. The musical  offers dazzling stagecraft overseen by director Matthew Warchus, a faithful and intelligent book by David Kelly, and Tim Minchin’s clever lyrics. The production also, however, sometimes feels in need of a translator. It is very British both in milieu and in enunciation. A major reason to choose this show is that it is set to close on January 1, 2017.

Tickets to Matilda

School of Rock

School of Rock

In his first original musical on Broadway in a decade, Andrew Lloyd Webber has chosen to adapt a movie with a plot that could hardly be sillier, and supplies a new score that could hardly be more addictive. School of Rock – The Musical is full of both hard-charging rock n roll and supremely catchy melodies.

An implicit message of the musical — that rocking and stomping are far more important to fourth graders than math or history – could make a convincing case for the depravity of rock n roll. But if anybody is still alive to be receptive to that argument, they’re sure to be won over by the thrilling performances by the baker’s dozen of talented kids, several sure to share stardom with the adults.

Tickets to School of Rock

Wicked

Wicked NY

Wicked NY

The musical tells the story of “The Wizard of Oz” from the witches’ perspective, more specifically from the Wicked Witch of the West, who was not, as a child, wicked at all, but just green-tinted, taunted, and misunderstood. There is so much to like about this musical, the clever twists on the familiar tale, the spectacular set, and music that is a lot more appealing in context (such as the song “Defying Gravity”) that I will forgive the contortions necessary to tack on a happy ending.

Tickets to Wicked

Tickets to Hamilton

Broadway’s Thanksgiving Week Schedule

As the Broadway schedule below for Thanksgiving week indicates, seven shows are performing Thanksgiving Day. A Bronx Tale; Chicago; Fiddler on the Roof; Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812; Paramour; Phantom of the Opera; and Waitress. Every other show is dark that day. But most have added matinees on Friday.Some dozen of the shows have also added a performance on the Monday before Thanksgiving.

The show names in the chart below are linked to my reviews, or other relevant articles, when available. I put an asterisk next to those shows that I enjoyed without significant reservation. (Or just one significant reservation — tickets are expensive.)

A key to understanding the chart:
Crossed out dates means canceled performance
Bold faced dates means added performance
Italic dates means a different than usual curtain time

SHOW Mon. Nov. 21 Tue. Nov. 22 Wed. Nov. 23 Thu. Nov. 24 Fri. Nov. 25 Sat. Nov. 26 Sun. Nov. 27
*Aladdin DARK 7pm 1pm, 7pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm, 6:30pm
Alton Brown Live DARK 8pm 8pm DARK 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 1pm, 5:30pm
Beautiful 7pm 7pm 2pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm, 7pm
*The Book of Mormon DARK 7pm 2pm,7pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 7pm
A Bronx Tale 8pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
Cats 8pm 7pm 7:30pm DARK 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm, 7pm
The Cherry Orchard 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 8pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm
Chicago 8pm 8pm 8pm 8pm 2:30pm, 8pm 2:30pm, 8pm 2:30pm, 7pm
*The Color Purple 7pm 7pm 2pm, 7pm DARK 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
*Dear Evan Hansen 8pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
The Encounter DARK 7pm 2pm, 8pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
Falsettos DARK 7pm 2pm, 8pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
Fiddler on the Roof DARK 7pm 2pm, 8pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
The Front Page DARK 7pm 2pm, 8pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
*Hamilton DARK 7pm 2pm, 8pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
Heisenberg 7pm 7pm 2pm, 7pm 8pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm
Holiday Inn DARK 8pm 2pm, 8pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm
*The Humans DARK 7pm 2pm, 8pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
The Illusionists DARK 7pm DARK 7pm 3pm, 8pm 11am, 3pm, 8pm 1pm, 6:30pm
In Transit 8pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
Jersey Boys DARK 7pm 2pm, 7pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
Kinky Boots DARK 7pm 2pm, 8pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
Les Liasons Dangereuses DARK 7pm 2pm, 8pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
*Lion King DARK 7pm 2pm, 8pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm, 6:30pm
*Matilda 7pm 7pm 2pm DARK 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm, 6:30pm
*Natasha, Pierre… DARK 7pm 2pm, 8pm 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
Oh, Hello 8pm 8pm 8pm 8pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm, 7pm
*On Your Feet! 8pm 7pm 8pm DARK 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm, 7pm
Paramour 7pm 7pm 7pm 5pm DARK 3pm 2pm
Phantom of the Opera 8pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm DARK
*School of Rock 7pm 7pm 2pm, 7pm DARK 7:30pm 2pm, 7:30pm 1pm, 6pm
Something Rotten! 7pm 7pm 2pm, 8pm 7pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
*Waitress DARK 7:30pm 2pm, 7:30pm 7:30pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 3pm
*Wicked DARK 7pm 2pm, 7:30pm 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 8pm 2pm, 7pm

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Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway: Review, Pics, Videos

An opera with an unwieldy title based on Tolstoy’s War and Peace seemed an unlikely crowd-pleaser, but I was thrilled when I saw it Off-Broadway, first at Ars Nova in 2012, and again in a circus tent in 2013. When they announced a Broadway run, however, I wondered how they could possibly pull it off.

They’ve done it! Now installed in the wondrously transformed Imperial Theater on Broadway, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 is extraordinary, the freshest, most inviting show on Broadway this season. Great Comet is especially awesome in its stagecraft, as well as in its music, and in its performances. The large, exciting cast includes nearly two dozen who are making their Broadway debuts, including Denee Benton and Josh Groban as the titular characters….Director Rachel Chavkin and set designer Mimi Lien in particular deserve kudos for staging on Broadway something very close to the kind of immersive theater that’s lately been intriguing theatergoers all over the world – everywhere but Broadway, until now.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

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

Dust and Ashes

Charming

Sonya Alone

The Prologue