Sunday in the Park with George: Sondheim and Seurat, Gyllenhaal and Ashford

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte - 1884
“Art isn’t easy,” Jake Gyllenhaal as George sings in the fourth Broadway production of Stephan Sondheim and James Lapine’s “Sunday In the Park with George,” inspired by one of the most popular paintings in the world.
“Sunday” opens tonight at the newly rechristened Hudson Theater, which is both one of the oldest theaters on Broadway (built in 1903), and the newest (presenting its first Broadway show in 49 years.)

If some theatergoers were uneasy with the unusually structured musical when it premiered in 1984, audiences have come around so completely to the art of Stephen Sondheim, that when the characters in Georges Seurat’s painting bow to him in Act II, it seems nearly autobiographical.
Click on any photographs below by Matthew Murphy of the current production to see them enlarged. (Below the photographs, a plot summary by Sondheim himself.)

Stephen Sondheim’s synopsis: “Act One concerns the French painter Georges Seurat (1859-1891) and his creation of Un dimanche apres-midi a l’Ile de la Grande Jatte (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte), which took more than two years to complete…and depicts approximately fifty people in varying perspectives and proportions strolling and relaxing in a public park outside of Paris..Act Two deals with the artistic crisis experienced by his great-grandson, an American conceptual artist in his forties, named George.”


Sunset Boulevard Review: Ready for Glenn Close Up

hillaryatsunsetThere was thunderous applause the night I saw “Sunset Boulevard” for Hillary Clinton as she took her seat right before the musical began. It would be snarky to observe it was the greatest ovation of the night, but I was struck by how much was packed into that greeting – admiration, defiance, a shared history, shared emotion, a shared loss.

There was certainly admiration for the revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, especially for the dazzling encore performance of Glenn Close as Norma Desmond, 22 years after she won a Tony Award for the same role. But this show about a once-famous film star trying for a comeback, and the screenwriter who becomes her boy toy and her victim, carried relatively little emotional weight or complexity.

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

There was one moment in the show that actually moved me. That was when Norma is visiting her old movie studio, ignored by everybody bustling about except for one old member of the crew, who shines a spotlight on her. The actors dressed in Samson and Delilah outfits and the camera operators one by one stop what they’re doing to look at her. She basks in the light, glows in it, but her expression is tinged with something deeper, something close to fear and sorrow. She stands there like that, soaking it in, letting us soak it in, before she starts singing “As If We Never Said Goodbye” — the most effective lead-in to a song I think I’ve ever seen on a stage.

But then the song itself, as melodic and touching as it is, ends with: “We taught the world new ways to dream.”

That is one of the lyrics that drive home what I consider a fatal flaw in much of the remaining 150 minutes of “Sunset Boulevard,” a musical adaptation of the 1950 movie that was directed by Billy Wilder and starred Gloria Swanson. In the movie, Norma Desmond is delusional. But the Lloyd Webber musical shares much of her delusion. Rather than the film’s grim and ironic satire of Hollywood, the stage “Sunset Boulevard” is really an homage to (and embodiment of) big, empty commercial entertainment.

Yes, I know, this production – directed by Lonny Price and originally presented by the English National Opera in London — is being touted as a pared down concert version. This is a, well, semi-delusional claim. There is indeed a 40-piece orchestra placed Encores-like on stage. There is also

a cast of more than two dozen

a new gorgeous costume for Glenn Close in each and every scene

a working antique car (a “Isotta-Fraschini”)

a life-sized dummy suspended above the stage (the murder victim we see at the outset of the show, that is supposed to make it a stage noir, which it isn’t)

and the pool of water where the orchestra pit is normally located, from which emerges Joe Gillis (Norma’s kept man, portrayed by Michael Xavier) in wet bathing suit and glistening pectorals.

Yes, yes, the set is surely less elaborate than the original Broadway production: In that version, Norma is alone on New Year’s Eve in her exquisite palazzo, appointed with a working pipe organ and a majestic staircase, when it is literally lifted up into the air, revealing a crowded party in a cramped Hollywood apartment in the bottom half – a living split screen, one of the most memorable stage effects ever. (I’ll confess that’s one of the few things I remember from the 1994 show, winner of seven Tonys, including best musical.) But James Noone’s set for the revival can be considered bare bones only if the bones belonged to Tyrannosaurus rex. It is an elaborate multi-tiered maze of staircases and catwalks, with the “HOLLYWOOD” sign behind it, and interspersed with the odd gold-and-crystal chandelier.

The large orchestra certainly makes Lloyd Webber’s score sound better than it would have if played by 40 kazoos, but, as tuneful as some of it is, all the violins in the world can’t turn it into Puccini.

“Sunset Boulevard” is ersatz opera of the outsized and mostly overwrought kind that Broadway audiences have been eating up, on and off, since the 1980s. It’s noteworthy, then, that this production (and the one in 1994) cast Glenn Close, whose voice is, to put it politely, far from operatic. Her power resides in her acting; her Norma manages, at its best, to be both steely and vulnerable, sinking into herself and dominating everything and everyone. Most of the other cast members hardly register by comparison. (One exception is Fred Johanson as the odd Max von Mayerling, her driver and protector, who makes the most of his one song.)

Glenn Close gets seriously into her character. But at the same time, when Joe says on meeting her “Aren’t you Norma Desmond?….You use to be big,” there’s something of an implied wink in her delivery of the most famous line in the musical (and in the movie): “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”  That’s a moment when the audience can say: I’m with her.

Sunset Boulevard

Book by Don Black and Christopher Hampton; Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; Lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton; Based on the film by Billy Wilder.

Directed by Lonny Price; Choreographed by Stephen Mear; Associate Director: Matt Cowart

Scenic Design by James Noone; Costume Design by Tracy Christensen; Lighting Design by Mark Henderson; Sound Design by Mick Potter; Original Glenn Close Costume Designs: Anthony Powell; Glenn Close Wig Design: Andrew Simonin; Glenn Close’s Makeup Design: Charlotte Hayward; Hair and Wig Design by Dave Bova and J. Jared Janas; Makeup Design by Dave Bova and J. Jared Janas; Associate Costume Design: Abby Hahn; Associate Lighting Design: Travis McHale; Associate Sound Design: Adam Fisher; Associate Wig Design: Brittany Hartman

Cast: Glenn Close as Norma Desmond, Siobhan Dillon as Betty Schaeffer, Fred Johanson as Max von Mayerling, Michael Xavier as Joe Gillis, Nancy Anderson, Mackenzie Bell,Preston Truman Boyd, Artie Green, Barry Busby, Britney Coleman, Julian R. Decker, Anissa Felix, Drew Foster, David Hess, Brittney Johnson, Katie Ladner, Stephanie Martignetti, Lauralyn McClelland, T. Oliver Reid, Lance Roberts, Stephanie Rothenberg, Graham Rowat, Paul Schoeffler as Cecil B. DeMille, Andy Taylor as Sheldrake, Sean Thompson, Matt Wall, Jim Walton as Manfred

Musical Director: Kristen Blodgette; Music orchestrated by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber; Vocal and Incidental Music Arrangements: David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber

Musical Supervisor: Kristen Blodgette; Musical Coordinator: David Lai; Conducted by Kristen Blodgette; Keyboard 1: Michael Patrick Walker; Keyboard 2: Dale Rieling; Concert Master: Kelly Hall-Tompkins; First Violin: Katherine Livolsi-Landau, Karl Kawahara, Victoria Paterson, Sebu Sirinian and Svetlana Tsoneva; Second Violin: Mineko Yajima, Elizabeth Nielsen, Louise Owen, Rena Isbin and Patricia Davis; Viola: David Creswell, Mark Holloway, Richard Brice and Jennifer Herman; Cello: Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf, Robert Burkhart and Emily Brausa; Bass/Electric Bass Peter Donovan; Bass: Lisa Stokes; Flute/Alto Flute: Liz Mann; Flute/Piccolo: Kathleen Nester; Oboe/Cor Anglais: Julia DeRosa; Clarinet: Todd Palmer; Clarinet 2/Tenor Saxophone: Rob Jacoby; Bass Clarinet/Alto Saxophone 1: Andrew Sterman; Bassoon 1: Damian Primis; Bassoon 2: Cynde Iverson; Horn 1: Mike Atkinson; Horn 2: Will de Vos; Trumpet/Piccolo: John Chudoba; Trumpet 2: Alex Holton; Trombone: Mark Patterson; Bass Trombone: Jeremy Morrow; Harp: Grace Paradise; Guitar: Nate Brown; Drums: Michael Croiter; Percussion: Daniel Haskins; Synthesizer Programmer: Stuart Andrews; Music Copying: Emily Grishman Music Preparation and Adriana Grace

Running time: 2 hours and 40 minutes, including one intermission.

Tickets: $79-$250

“Sunset Boulevard” is scheduled to run through June 25, 2017 (which is an extension of its original run.)

Valentines Day Talk with Significant Other Cast


significant-other-poster-croppedBelow are brief videotaped interviews with Barbara Barrie, Gideon Glick, Rebecca Naomi Jones, and Lindsay Mendez — four of the cast members of “Significant Other,” a play by Joshua Harmon about dating, which begins previews today (St. Valentine’s Day) at Broadway’s Booth Theater, and opens on March 2, 2017.



February 2017 NY Theater Openings

Broadway this month will see the opening of two starry musical  revivals by two of the reigning composers of musical theater — Stephen Sondheim (86) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (68) — while Off-Broadway pays tribute to Jerry Herman (85) and Kurt Weill (1900-1950), and presents a new musical by John Kander (89.)

Meanwhile, Off-Off Broadway is showcasing the work of one of New York’s hottest musical composers, Dave Malloy (41), best-known for the hit Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812., which also started Off-Off-Broadway.

The month will also see the opening of new plays by (among others) Brandon Jacob-Jenkins, David Mamet,  Tanya Saracho,and  Will Eno, and new productions of plays by Tracy Letts and Wallace Shawn.

Below is a list, organized chronologically by opening date, with descriptions. Each title is 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

February 1


Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose (Davenport)

Ed Dixon recounts how he came to know and admire character actor George Rose, who acted with such luminaries as Katherine Hepburn and Noel Coward.

February 8


Jonah and Otto (Lost Tribe at Theater Row)

Over the course of a single day, two men  – one 26, the other 62; different in every way – share their solitude and unfold their secrets.


Fade (Primary Stages at Cherry Lane)

A comedy by Tanya Saracho about the burgeoning friendship between Lucia and Abel, two Latinos of Mexican descent working at a ruthless Hollywood studio


Big River (Encores at City Center)

The Encores concert version of the Tony-winning musical based on Mark Twain’s novel “Huck Finn.”

February 9

The Mother of Invention (Abingdon at June Havoc)

James Lecesne’s unflinching and comedic look at how one family deals with the effects of Alzheimer’s.

Sunset Boulevard (Palace Theatre)

Glenn Close stars in a revival of the 1994 musical based on the 1950 Billy Wilder movie about a faded Hollywood silent film goddess who tries to make one last comeback. This production was seen in a spring 2016 revival in London.


The Object Lesson (New York Theatre Workshop)

In what’s becoming its signature activity, NYTW has physically transformed their theater once again, this time turning it into a giant storage facility.  allowing audiences to roam and poke through the clutter.

February 10


Crackskull Row ( Irish Rep)

Rasher Moorigan has a secret that only his mother knows. Tonight  – for the first time in over thirty years – mother and son spend May Eve together in a wreck of a house down the backlanes of Dublin

February 12


Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill: (York)

Kurt Weill’s theater songs are presented in the York’s “Musical in Muftis” series (a short run), in a blend of music and story, spanning twenty years, from Von Hindenburg and Hitler in Germany to Roosevelt and Truman in the U.S.


Beardo (Pipeline)

Beardo, which takes place in St. John’s Lutheran Church in Greenpoint,  is a “Russian indie rock musical” with music by Dave Malloy ( Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.) “This New York premiere explodes the mad inner workings of Rasputin, the infamous mystic who sexed his way to the fall of the Russian monarchy.”

Ring Twice For Miranda (NY City Center Stage II)

A man known only as Sir rules with a vengeance, but it’s Miranda, a chambermaid, who adds intrigue to his life. When Elliot, the butler, is fired, she flees with him in defiance onto the frightening streets. All must soon make critical decisions with imperfect facts to guide them, since little in their world is as it appears.

February 15


Man From Nebraska (Second Stage)

A revival of the play by Tracey Letts, directed by David Cromer, starring Reed Birney (The Humans) as Ken, a middle aged man from Nebraska, who suddenly finds he’s lost his faith, along with his sense of purpose. He goes on a wild adventure to find it. Along the way he encounters a world vastly different from his own, filled with chance meetings and romantic encounters that shake him to the core.

February 16

Wallace Shawn, from the National Theater production.

Wallace Shawn, from the National Theater production.

Evening at the Talk House (New Group at  Signature)

The New Group at Signature) by Wallace Shawn with Matthew Broderick, Jill Eikenberry, John Epperson, Larry Pine, Wallace Shawn, Claudia Shear, Annapurna Sriram, Michael Tucker.  Shawn takes on theater itself with this acerbic and stealth political comedy about theater artists who  have a reunion at their old hangout, the Talk House, to reminisce about the show they made a decade ago — except most are no longer theater artists. There’s been “a decline in the theatergoing impulse.”

February 19

On The Exhale (Roundabout)

A play by Martin Zimmerman (Netflix’s Narcos) starring Marin Ireland as a liberal college professor inexplicably drawn to a weapon used in a senseless act of violence.

February 21


Everybody (Signature)

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s new play is a modern version of Everyman, a famous morality play about Christian salvation from the 15th century. I have no idea what he’s doing with it, but he was very clever in a play called Octoroon, which was his take on an 19th century melodrama, and both provocative and thoughtful in his play Gloria

February 22

If I Forget (Roundabout)

A new play by Steven Levenson (“The Language of Trees,” “The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin”) that tells the story of the bickering reunion of liberal Jewish studies professor Michael Fischer with his two sisters to celebrate their father’s 75th birthday shortly before 9/11.

DC production of Kid Victory

DC production of Kid Victory

Kid Victory (Vineyard)

The latest collaboration between John Kander and Greg Pierce. “Seventeen-year-old Luke returns to his small Kansas town after a wrenching one-year absence. As his friendship grows with the town misfit, Emily, his parents realize that in order to truly find their son, they must confront some unnerving truths about his disappearance.”

February 23

City Center

Sunday in the Park with George (Hudson Theater)

Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford star in this
transfer of the New York City Center‘s fall 2016 concert version of the Pulitzer-winning Sondheim and Lapine 1984 musical about pointillist painter George Seurat. It marks the re-launching of the Hudson Theater (built in 1903) as the 41st Broadway house.

Linda (MTC at City Center)

Penelope Skinner’s play is about a successful woman whose pitch to change the way the world looks at women of a certain age winds up making her fight for her own relevance.

February 24


The View UpStairs (Lynn Redgrave Theater)

A young fashion designer from 2017 buys the abandoned space that was the UpStairs Lounge, a vibrant ’70s gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

February 26

Dear World (York)

Tyne Daly stars in the York’s “Musical in Mufti” (short run) of Jerry Herman’s musical based on the Madwoman of Chaillot.

February 27

Wakey, Wakey (Signature)

Will Eno’s play “challenges the notion of what really matters and recognizes the importance of life’s simple pleasures.” The downtown playwright  who made his Broadway debut recently with the abstruse The Realistic Joneses has his admirers; I’m not yet one of them.

The Penitent (Atlantic)

A new play by David Mamet. “A renowned psychiatrist is asked to testify on behalf of a young patient. When he refuses, his career, ethics and faith are thrown into question.”

Nibbler (The Amoralists at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre)

A play by Ken Urban that takes place in the summer of 1992 in Medford, New Jersey, when Adam and his gang of friends face life after high school.  But then the fivesome encounter a mysterious visitor from another world, and their lives are forever changed


Bull In A China Shop (LCT)

A comedy by Bryna Turner that follows Mary Woolley and her partner Jeannette Marks through 40 years in a New England seminary as they reform and revolutionize women’s education at the height of the suffrage movement.

February 28

A Gravediggger’s Lullaby (TACT at Theatre Row)

A new play by Jeff Talbott about the life of Baylen, an honest, hard-working gravedigger who sweats and bleeds to support his small family

Jitney Review: August Wilson’s First on Broadway at Last

August Wilson

August Wilson

Eleven years after his death, playwright August Wilson answers Donald Trump’s bleak depiction of “inner cities,” with “Jitney,” the first play Wilson wrote in his ten-play American Century Cycle, but the last of the ten to be produced on Broadway, in a superbly acted and directed production that’s running at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater through March 12.

The new president’s only reference to Black America in his inaugural address was a bleak and oblique one, “mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities.”   In Wilson’s 1979 play, which takes place in 1977 in a gypsy cab station in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, we get to know the drivers, their passengers, and their family members. Some feel trapped, yes; some, defeated. But each has a story to tell, and a full life of faults and wisdom and talents that Wilson presents with humor and empathy. For all their constant bickering and occasional angry confrontations, there is a web of relationships that together fit the very definition of a community, with an always-present past and a hoped-for future. That their livelihoods are being threatened by City Hall’s well-meaning plan to demolish the cab station and the surrounding neighborhood in the name of urban renewal, adds an extra layer of irony and relevance, given the new president’s vague and ominous promises of improvement.

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged

Director Ruben Santiago-Hudson makes the play as lively and funny as it should be, but seems to locate its heart in two sets of relationships. Becker (the always magnificent John Douglas Thompson) is in charge of the car service station, and deals fairly and calmly with everybody with whom he comes into contact – except his son. Booster (Brandon J. Dirden) has just been released from prison, where he served 20 years for killing his white girlfriend. We learn why he did so – she claimed Booster was a stranger and falsely accused him of rape when her corporate executive father discovered them together. The confrontation between father and son, wrapped up in their differing notions of what it means to have dignity, is powerful and heartbreaking.

Then there is the relationship between the young driver Youngblood (Andre Holland, a rising star now best-known for the films “Selma” and “Moonlight”) and his girlfriend Rena (Carra Patterson.) Youngblood, a Vietnam veteran, is hard-working and ambitious, and chafes under the feeling that the world (i.e. the white world) won’t give him a break. “You just have to shake off that ‘white folks is against me’ attitude,” fellow driver Doub (Keith Randolph Smith) tells him. “Hell, they don’t even know you’re alive.” Youngblood was once a womanizer, and Rena, who is the mother of his two-year-old son, is worried that he hasn’t changed. She doesn’t trust him; he resents her distrust. I won’t spoil how this plays out, except to say that it is touching to the point of tears. “You already my pride. I want you to be my joy.” The hopefulness of their relationship feels like a counterweight to the hopelessness of that between father and son.

If these two relationships feel like the Yin and Yang of “Jitney,” each of the nine characters – and each actor – gets their moments. Michael Potts is amusing and spot-on as Turnbo, an incurable, sometimes menacing gossip. Anthony Chisholm as Fielding is a drunk, but a dignified one with a surprising past. As Doub, Keith Randolph Smith gets some of the most memorable lines. Two frequent car service customers add to the atmosphere of the station and the texture of the play – Ray Anthony Thomas as a doorman who is proud to have worked every day for the past six years, when many people he knows are unemployed; Harvy Banks as Shealy the numbers runner, who is dressed in one colorful now-cringe worthy 70’s suit after another. The costume design by Toni-Leslie James works in concert with set designer David Gallo to nail down the time and place, as does the original music by Bill Sims Jr, a mix of funk and blues and jazz.

The plot of “Jitney” does not conclude as artfully as those in Wilson’s later work, such as “The Piano Lesson,” which seem to spring from the characters rather than feeling imposed (rather abruptly) by the author. But Wilson’s strengths as a portraitist, and his ear for dialogue, are evident from the get-go. Each of the characters in “Jitney” gets to tell their stories, in a language that is street poetry — astute, authentic, deeply satisfying in its imagery and its rhythms. It’s fitting that in 2013 Santiago-Hudson directed radio broadcasts of all ten of what is sometimes called Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle. There is one play for each decade of the 20th century, all set in Pittsburgh, which Wilson wrote over more than two decades and completed the year of his death in 2005.

August Wilson's plays. The left column is organized by when he wrote them. The right column goes chronologically by the year in which the play is set.

August Wilson’s plays.
The left column is organized by when he wrote them. The right column goes chronologically by the year in which the play is set.

From the moment Ruben Santiago-Hudson saw his first August Wilson play, he was “smitten, captured, put in a spell,” he told me in 2013. “Nobody had represented me with such integrity; nobody seemed to have the love for me and the people I knew like August did.” That love comes through in this pitch-perfect production.

Santiago-Hudson was not the only one smitten.

DenzelWashingtoninFencesDenzel Washington was also smitten. He is getting wider attention to Wilson’s work right now, thanks to the movie version of “Fences” that he directed and is starring in. “Fences” was revived on Broadway in 2010 with much the same cast as the movie, the last previous production of a Wilson play on Broadway before “Jitney.”

There is convincing evidence that Wilson’s American Century Cycle will become even more popular as the 21st century continues: Washington plans to bring all ten plays to the screen. Whatever happens in the decades to come, for the moment at least, “Jitney” feels not just rewarding, but necessary.



MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater

Written by August Wilson; Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson

Original music composed by Bill Sims Jr.

Set design by David Gallo

Lighting design by Jane Cox

Costume design by Toni-Leslie James

Sound design by Darren L. West

Cast Harvy Blanks, Anthony Chisholm, Brandon J. Dirden, André Holland, Carra Patterson, Michael Potts, Keith Randolph Smith, Ray Anthony Thomas and John Douglas Thompson

Running time: 2 hours and 25 minutes, including one intermission.

Tickets: $79.00 – $159.00

“Jitney” is scheduled to run through March 12, 2017

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.


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


Mope (Ensemble Studio Theater) 

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

January 15


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


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 (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


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

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





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 (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 (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 (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?


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




Holiday Inn


Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Oh, Hello

Our Mothers Brief Affair


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

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