Watch Something Rotten With Its New Cast – Will Chase, Rob McClure et al

“Something Rotten” recently replaced most of its principal cast– Will Chase is now the sexy William Shakespeare, Rob McClure and Josh Grisetti the  Bard-envious Bottom Brothers, Leslie Kritzer  Nick Bottom’s liberated wife, and Catherine Brunell as Nigel Bottom’s love interest.

Will Chase as Shakespeare singing "Will Power" in Bryant Park.

Will Chase as Shakespeare singing “Will Power” in Bryant Park.

Watch the videos below of their performances at the last Broadway in Bryant Park lunchtime concert of the summer.

When the musical comedy about the first-ever (made-up) musical opened on Broadway in April, 2015, the reviews were mixed, including from me. But I saw it again recently with most of the replacement cast and found the pacing much improved, and while some of the content still revels in bad taste in service of an outdated humor, the acting is less winky-winky (Andre Ward as the Minstrel is especially welcome.)

Watch Corbin Bleu, Bryce Pinkham in Irving Berlin Musical Holiday Inn

 

Corbin Bleu sang “Cheek to Cheek” with Lora Lee Gayer. Bryce Pinkham sang “Blue Skies,” and Megan Lawrence sang “Shaking the Blues Away” in a preview of “Holiday Inn: The New Irving Berlin Musical” at the Broadway in Bryant Park lunchtime concert today.

“Holiday Inn,” which is set to open at Roundabout Theater’s Studio 54 on October 6, 2016 is “inspired” by the 1942 movie of the same name starring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby that introduced Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” The Broadway musical will have several hit Berlin songs that were not in the movie.

Here is how Roundabout describes the story of Holiday Inn the musical: “Jim [Bryce Pinkham}leaves the lights of show business behind to settle down on his farmhouse in Connecticut… but life just isn’t the same without a bit of song and dance. Jim’s luck takes a spectacular turn when he meets Linda [Lora Lee Gayer], a spirited schoolteacher with talent to spare. Together they turn the farmhouse into a fabulous inn with dazzling performances to celebrate each holiday, from Thanksgiving to the Fourth of July. But when Jim’s best friend Ted [Corbin Bleu] tries to lure Linda away to be his new dance partner in Hollywood, will Jim be able to salvage his latest chance at love?”

The book is co-written by Gordon Greenberg, who is also making his Broadway directorial debut, and Chad Hodge. It is choreographed by Denis Jones.

HolidayInnposter

Watch Preview of Broadway’s Great Comet of 1812

Great Comet of 1812 preview photoThe Broadway cast of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” — minus Josh Groban — sang three songs at the Broadway in Bryant Park lunch-time concert on Thursday.  Dave Malloy’s musical, which is set to open in Broadway’s Imperial Theater on November 14, was exuberantly praised in its various incarnations Off-Broadway, including by me.

The story: Natasha (Denee Benton) is a beautiful ingénue visiting Moscow while she waits for her beloved fiancé Andrey to return from the war. In a moment of indiscretion, she is seduced by the dashing but already married Anatole (Lucas Steele) and her position in society is ruined. Her only hope lies with Pierre (Josh Groban),  the lonely outsider whose love and compassion for Natasha may be the key to her redemption… and to the renewal of his own soul.

The Prologue introduces the characters and the plot of the show, which is based on a sliver of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

 

Denee Benton, who will portray Natasha on Broadway, sings “No One Else”

Lulu Fall as Helen sang “Charming.” The role will be played on Broadway by Amber Gray.

It’s interesting to compare these videos with three made at a Broadway in Bryant Park concert three years ago. Many of the cast members in the 2013 production, such as Amber Gray and Brittain Ashford, will be on Broadway as well.

Brittain Ashford will be playing Sonya again on Broadway:

Watch Les Miz, Fiddler, Paramour at Broadway in Bryant Park

C2E2 2016 - Cosplay Sunday Floor

Below, cast members from the Broadway shows Les Miserables, Fiddler on the Roof, and Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour, as well as the Marvelous Wonderettes Off-Broadway, sing and dance during the July 21, 2016 Broadway at Bryant Park concert.

From Les Miserables:
John Owen-Jones as Valjean sings “Bring Him Home”
Alison Luff as Fantine sings “I Dreamed a Dream”

From Fiddler on the Roof:
Sarah Parker, Marla Phelan and Silvia Vrskova sing “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”

From Paramour
“The Honeymoon Days of Fame”

From the Marvelous Wonderettes

Diana DeGarmo, Christina Bianco, Jenna Leigh Green and Sally Schwab sing “Mr. Sandman”

Motown the Musical Review: Back on Broadway (Not For Long)

When “Motown the Musical” opened on Broadway in 2013, I fell for the show, because of the exciting performances by a cast impersonating many of the stars of Motown Records – Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder…more than a dozen acts in all. I forgave the chutzpah of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr., who co-wrote and produced the clunky, self-serving story that framed the music, which focused on the rise of the wise and powerful Berry Gordy Jr.

The show wound up being the hit I had predicted, and when it closed just 18 months ago, it promised to return to Broadway. And so it has, for a limited engagement of 18 weeks.

This time around, I didn’t fall.

Update: The producers have announced (on opening night!) that “Motown” will close early; its final performance will be July 31 (not November.)

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

Yes, the musical numbers are still entertaining, thanks (as I noted three years ago) to the adept musical arrangements by Ethan Popp, expert sound design by Peter Hylenski, choreography by Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams that offers the signature Motown moves mixed in with some exhilarating dancing that is more free-form and contemporary. ESosa’s flashy and elegant costumes still number in the hundreds.

A clue to the difference between the original Broadway production and the new one occurred at the curtain call, when Chester Gregory, the actor portraying Berry Gordy Jr. this time around, shouted out “Hey, New York City!” That is the sort of thing a touring company does – call out the name of the city where they are performing that night. And indeed, the cast now at Broadway’s Nederlander Theater is part of a production that has been touring the country since 2014.

Most everything about this production is more….efficient….than the original one on Broadway. The cast has been reduced in size; sets have been simplified; scenes have been trimmed or excised – we no longer see Gordy working as a mechanic in an auto repair shop, for example, one of the several jobs he had (including boxer, failed record store owner, cookware salesman and songwriter) before he borrowed $800 from his family  to create a record company that he sold some three decades later for $61 million.

Unfortunately, the efficiency seems to extend to the performances as well. I don’t doubt that the new cast is talented, but the moments that won me over the first time around – the Jackie Wilson character shimmying through “Reet Petite,” the Marvin Gaye character singing “What’s Going On,” and especially Diana Ross doing her first solo apart from the Supremes, “Reach Out and Touch” – just didn’t have the same impact this time. The only clear standout now is Leon Outlaw Jr. as young Michael Jackson. The cast members make all the right moves, their voices are in fine form, but there surely needs to be some extra, indefinable spark to stand out in a show that is jam-packed with some 60 songs — most shortened versions or mere snippets of the original. Maybe they’ve just been on the road too long.

 

 

Motown the Musical

Nederlander theater

Book by Berry Gordy, music and lyrics by “The Legendary Motown Catalog”

Based upon the book “To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown” by Berry Gordy. (“script consultants” David Goldsmith and Dick Scanlan.)

Charles Randolph-Wright (Direction)

Warren Adams and Patricia Wilcox (Choreography)
David Korins (Scenic Design)
ESosa (Costume Design)
Natasha Katz (Lighting Design)
Peter Hylenski (Sound Design)
Daniel Brodie (Projection Design)
Ethan Popp (Musical Supervision, Arrangements and Orchestrations)
Bryan Crook (Co-Orchestrations and Additional Arrangements)
Zane Mark (Dance Arrangements)
Joseph Joubert (Musical Direction)

Cast: Chester Gregory as Berry Gordy, Allison Semmes as Diana Ross, Jesse Nager as Smokey Robinson, Jarran Muse as Marvin Gaye, and J.J. Batteast and Leon Outlaw, Jr. as Young Berry Gordy/Stevie Wonder/Michael Jackson

Running time: 2 hours and 45 minutes, including an intermission

Tickets: $87 to $250

Motown was scheduled to run through  November 13, 2016, but now will end July 31.

She Loves Me on BroadwayHD: First Scene

SheLovesMeopeningnumberstill

Below is the overture and opening number of the Roundabout’s Broadway production of “She Loves Me,” as live streamed by BroadwayHD on June 30, 2016.

The musical starring Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi and Jane Krakowski runs live through July 10 at Studio 54. July 10th is also the deadline for  renting the entire BroadwayHD recording “on demand” for $9.99.

My review of She Loves Me

 

(The scene/song begins at around the 7 minute mark)

 

Lyrics:

               ARPAD
GOOD MORNING.
HOW ARE YOU THIS BEAUTIFUL DAY?
ISN’T THIS A BEAUTIFUL MORNING?
               SIPOS

VERY.

HEY, SIPOS-
HOW’S THIS?

 

                    SIPOS
     THAT’S AN AWFULLY ELEGANT POSE
     BUT IS ALL THAT ELEGANCE NECE-
     ‘SARY?
                    ARPAD
And why not? I represent Maraczek’s, don’t I? We’re not a butcher shop- or a hardware store... we’re a parfumerie. That means we’re...
we’re...
     WE’RE STYLISH.

GOOD MORNING

GOOD DAY.

SIPOS

THAT’S IT.

               SIPOS
WITH A QUIET DIGNITY

ARPAD

                    ARPAD
     AND WE GET THE TILT OF OUR HATS RIGHT.
                    SIPOS
     THAT’S RIGHT.
                    ARPAD
     WHEN I RIDE MY BIKE,
     PEOPLE SEE WHAT MARACZEK’S LIKE.
     SO I THINK IT’S VERY IMPORTANT
     THAT I LOOK MY BEST.
                    SIPOS
And how many people did you run over today?

ARPAD

Not one.

                    SIPOS
Well - it’s early.
                    ARPAD
Here comes Miss Ritter.

SIPOS

Hmmm…

                    ARPAD
She spent the night with Mr. Kodaly

SIPOS

Again?

                    ARPAD
They always kiss goodbye at the newsstand. Then she walks around the block to make us think she’s been home.

YES,

(MISS RITTER ENTERS.)

                    RITTER
     GOOD MORNING.

ARPAD, SIPOS

GOOD DAY.

                    RITTER
     HOW ARE YOU THIS GLORIOUS DAY?
     HAVE YOU SEEN A LOVELIER MORNING?
                    ARPAD, SIPOS

NEVER.

                    RITTER
     IT’S TOO NICE A DAY
     TO BE INSIDE SHUFFLING SOAP.
     I HAVE NO MORE ENERGY WHAT-SO-EVER.
Anybody mind if I take the day off? Arpad - why aren’t you old
enough to take me away from all this?

ARPAD

I’m old enough!
                    RITTER
Then marry me and I’ll quit my job.

(SHE gives ARPAD a close scrutiny.)
No. I’m afraid you’re really not– quite- old enough.

                    ARPAD
It won’t be long, though. I’m catching up. You know, Miss Horvath

always used to say I’d get to be thirty-five before you ever did.

SIPOS

Ah- Mr. Kodaly.
(STEVEN KODALY enters.)

                    KODALY
     GOOD MORNING.

GOOD DAY.

ARPAD, SIPOS, RITTER
               KODALY
HOW ARE YOU THIS RADIANT DAY?
WHAT A RARE MAGNIFICENT MORNING!

IS IT?

ARPAD, SIPOS

KODALY (To RITTER)

     GOOD MORNING, MY DEAR.
     HOW ARE YOU THIS RAVISHING DAY?
     DO YOU KNOW YOU’VE NEVER LOOKED MORE EXQUISITE.
                    RITTER
     THANK YOU, KIND SIR.
                    KODALY
What a lovely dress.
                    ARPAD
It’s the same one she had on yesterday, Mr. Kodaly.

SIPOS

Ah- Mr. Nowack.
(GEORG NOWACK ENTERS.)

                    GEORG
     GOOD MORNING.
                    SIPOS, ARPAD, RITTER, KODALY

GOOD DAY.

                    GEORG
     ISN’T THAT A BEAUTIFUL SKY?
     WHAT A PERFECT SAMPLE OF SUMMER WEATHER.
     IT’S TOO NICE A DAY
     TO BE INDOORS COUNTING OUT CHANGE
     WHAT A WASTE OF HOLIDAY WEATHER ALTOGETHER...
     LET’S ALL RUN AWAY!
               RITTER
WOULDN’T IT BE SOMETHING IF WE ALL TOOK OFF FROM WORK?
               SIPOS
LEAVING MR. MARACZEK WITHOUT A SINGLE CLERK!
               ARPAD
WHY NOT HAVE A PICNIC?
               SIPOS
I COULD BRING MY WIFE’S PRESERVES.
               KODALY
CHAMPAGNE MIGHT BE NICE WITH HOT HORS D’OEURVES.

ALL (In canon)

IT’S TOO NICE A DAY
TO BE STUCK INSIDE OF A STORE.
WE COULD ALL BE GETTING OUR FACES SUNTANNED.
IT’S SO NICE A DAY
TO BE DOZING UNDER A TREE-
               SIPOS
AND WE’LL ALL BE OUT OF A JOB.
               RITTER
IF IT COSTS THAT MUCH TO GET SUNTANNED-
               SIPOS
I’LL STAY UNTANNED.
               KODALY
PALE- BUT SOLVENT.

A PICNIC-

ARPAD

Oh. Yes.

GEORG

SIPOS (to GEORG)

A PICNIC-

ALL

(Spoken-sighed) Oh, well…

KrakowskiinSheLovesMe

Patriotism on Broadway: Excerpts from Hamilton, On Your Feet, The Humans,Waitress

 

All men are created equal“Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel,” Samuel Johnson famously said in 1775, one year before America’s first Fourth of July, the day that Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence.

As Americans celebrate our 240th Fourth of July,  several current Broadway shows offer different takes on patriotism, as the excerpts below should make clear.

The very definition of patriotism has shifted with the times, and, for many people, the word itself has gotten tarnished. “Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism – how passionately I hate them,” Albert Einstein said. But love for one’s country can be expressed in many, and contradictory, ways. “The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic,” H.L. Mencken wrote. “He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.”

 

The Schuyler sisters in Hamilton:

ANGELICA
I’ve been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine. So men say that I’m intense or I’m insane.
You want a revolution? I wanna revelation
so listen to my declaration
ELIZA/ANGELICA/PEGGY
“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”
ANGELICA
And when I meet Thomas Jefferson… I’m a compel him to include women in the sequel.
ELIZA
Look around look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now!
ELIZA/ANGELICA/PEGGY
History is happening in Manhattan and we
Just happen to be in the greatest city in the world

 

alexander hamilton in hamilton

Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton

America, you great unfinished symphony
You sent for me
You let me make a difference
A place where even orphan immigrants can leave their fingerprints and rise up
I’m running out of time, I’m running and my time’s up 􏰀 Wise up􏰀
Eyes up

13-0666_Omar Lopez-Cepero, Josh Segarra and Lee Zarrett in ON YOUR FEET! (c) Matthew Murphy

Emilio Estefan in On Your Feet

(A record company executive has just told him to change his name and his music in order to “cross over” outside “the Latin market”)
When I first got to Miami there was a sign in front of the apartment building next to ours. It said, “No Pets. No Cubans.” Change my name? It’s not my name to change. It’s my father’s name. It was my grandfather’s name. My grandfather, who we left behind in Cuba to come here and build a new life. Now, for 15 years I’ve worked my ass off and paid my taxes. So, I’m not sure where you think I live… but this is my home. And you should look very closely at my face, because whether you know it or not… this is what an American looks like. We’ll do it on our own.

Reed Birney, Jane Houdyshell, Cassie Beck, Sarah Steele,Arian Moayed

Reed Birney, Jane Houdyshell, Cassie Beck, Sarah Steele,Arian Moayed

Deirdre in The Humans

What makes a person powerful and influential and wealthy is not growing up with power and
influence and wealth…The gift of poverty is a…it’s not a myth, it’s a real thing, it can be a blessing…

 

Erik (Deirdre’s husband) in The Humans

I thought I’d be settled by my age, you know, but

man, it never ends…mortgage, car payments, internet, our dishwasher just gave out…
…Dontcha think it should cost less to be alive?

Kimiko Glenn and Keala Settle

Kimiko Glenn and Keala Settle

Dawn in Waitress

(Dawn is talking with her fellow waitresses about her personal profile for a dating site)

 Dawn: “Ecstatically alive, enthusiastically American, dynamic and witty, I am a woman of many passions, including a rare turtle collection. I love the History Channel.
Jenna: Now that’s nice
Dawn: Note: I have played Betsy Ross in 33 Revolutionary War Reenactments.”
Jenna: ….Okay…. That’ll set you apart from the crowd –
Dawn: I’m calling myself “NewDawnRising.”

Christopher Fitzgerald as Ogie

Christopher Fitzgerald as Ogie

Ogie in Waitress

(Ogie has responded to Dawn’s profile.)

Ogie: So I’ll pick you up on Sunday at 7?
Dawn: Maybe?
Ogie: Maybe! Maybe! There’s a reading at Rainard Park of the Federalist Papers.
Dawn: How do you know about that?
Ogie: I played Paul Revere in 42 Revolutionary War re-enactments. Well actually, 40 times technically I was the standby Revere but 2 times Paul was out – so I did actually play it, although one of those times I got injured halfway through, I had a bayonet issuefell off my horse and had to have my spleen removed.
Dawn: “One if by land, two if by sea…”
Ogie: “…and I on the opposite shore will be!”

LibertytheMusical

 

The Statue of Liberty from Liberty, a Monumental Musical

(A young Statue of Liberty is the main character in an Off-Broadway show opening on July 4th)

How much I love this land
The more I learn
The more I understand

 

The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus, in the Statue of Liberty

 

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

newcolossus

Last Chance for Lupita Nyong’o, Jessica Lange, Laura Benanti, Frank Langella: Broadway Shows Closing Soon

Broadwayclosinglogos

The following five shows are closing within the next ten days. Each of them I found worth seeing for one reason or another.

 

Pascale Armand, Lupita Nyong'o, and Saycon Sengbloh star in Danai Gurira's Eclipsed.

Pascale Armand, Lupita Nyong’o, and Saycon Sengbloh star in Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed.

Eclipsed – closing June 19

Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) is making her Broadway debut in this play by Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead), a forceful drama about the effect of war on five women in Liberia. What could easily have been a noble, grim and largely unwatchable testament to man’s inhumanity towards woman in wartime turns out to be a well-acted ensemble piece and a thought-provoking drama that is surprisingly vibrant, and sometimes even whimsical. Nominated for six Tony Awards, it won for Clint Ramos’s costume design.

Frank Langella with Hannah Cabell

Frank Langella with Hannah Cabell

The Father – closing June 19

Frank Langella  just won his fourth Tony Award for his performance as a man with dementia in this deliberately disorienting new play, and he is the main reason to see it.

Jessia Lange

Jessia Lange

Long Day’s Journey into Night – closing June 26

Jessica Lange won her first Tony for her portrayal of Mary Tyrone, whom she makes the center of attention in this sixth Broadway production  of Eugene O’Neill’s most personal play. She is not just a fading ethereal figure, but a robust woman whose entire life unfolds before us—alternatively innocent, skittish, coquettish, sneering, full-out furious, resigned. Gabriel Byrne, John Gallagher Jr. and Michael Shannon co-star. Nominated for seven Tonys, it also won for Natasha Katz’s lighting design.

 

BrightStar2 Michael_Pearce__Bennett_Sullivan__Rob_Berman__and_Martha_McDonnell._Photo_by_Nick_Stokes

Bright Star – closing June 26

The score by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell of this tuneful, well-performed display of American roots music almost makes up for the preposterous if occasionally moving story.

The King and I

The King and I

The King and I -closing  June 26

It’s baffling that this luscious production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved musical, which won four Tonys a year ago, is closing after only 15 months. (Such is Broadway.) I have not seen the new leads, Daniel Dae Kim and Marin Mazzie, but terrific featured performers Ruthie Ann Miles and Conrad Ricamora are still in it, as are the glorious costumes and sets.

 

Of the three scheduled to close in July, I recommend:

Zachary Levi and Laura Benanti

Zachary Levi and Laura Benanti

She Loves Me — closing July 10, 2016

Even somebody who has never heard of this romantic musical comedy could fall in love with this revival, thanks to the gorgeously melodic score, David Rockwell’s jewel box of a set, which won for him a Tony Award, and the stand-out performances by Laura Benanti and Jane Krakowski as two lovelorn shopgirls in an elegant European parfumerie. The production was nominated for eight Tony Awards.

What Broadway Show(s) Should You See? Top Suggestions

Bwayshowstosee

This is the time of year when people turn their attention to Broadway, for two reasons — it’s the summer, a good time to visit New York; and their interest is piqued thanks to the annual three-hour TV commercial known as the Tony Awards broadcast.

Below are some suggestions, listed alphabetically under several categories, starting with long-time hits.

Out-of-town friends frequently ask me what show they should see, since they know I see all of them. I say it depends on their taste, and ask them what they’ve seen before that they’ve liked. This is an answer that doesn’t seem to satisfy anybody, so here are 10 recommendations based largely on my taste.

LONG-TIME HIT MUSICALS

THE BOOK OF MORMON
The Eugene O’Neill Theater
Opened: March 24, 2011
Director: Jason Moore and Trey Parker
Twitter feed: @BookofMormonBWY
This musical by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (book), the creators of South Park, and Robert Lopez, one of the composer-lyricists for “Avenue Q” (music and lyrics) is about both the founder of the Church of Latter-Day Saints and modern disciples. It is outrageous, irreverent in one way, but also deeply reverent to (even while parodying) the best traditions of the Broadway musical.

My review of The Book of Mormon: Ridiculing Religion, Worshiping The Great White Way
JERSEY BOYS
August Wilson Theater (245 West 52nd Street)
Opened: November 6, 2006
Twitter: @JerseyBoysInfo
The story of the 1950′s-60′s singing group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, whose hits include “December 1963 [Oh, What A Night]” (my favorite) as well as “Sherry,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” etc.
Here is what I wrote about the show in an article entitled Jersey Boys vs. Jersey Shore: Although the music is better known than the musicians, and yes there are almost three dozen songs in the show, the story of the group is better than most of those ‘Behind The Music’ documentaries.

THE LION KING
Minskoff Theater (200 West 45th Street)
Opened: November 13, 1997
Twitter: @TheLionKing
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.
MATILDA
Shubert Theater, 225 West 44th Street,
Opened: April 11, 2013
Twitter: @MatildaBroadway
The quirky musical, about a neglected little girl with extraordinary powers, is based on a cartoonishly dark, oddball 1988 novel aimed at children by Roald Dahl. There is much to like this musical (although it was neglected at Tony time.) “Matilda” 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. My review of Matilda was not an unmitigated rave. I list this one mostly because it’s closing January 1, 2017.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
Majestic Theater (247 West 44th Street)
Opened: January 26, 1988
Twitter: @PhantomBway
The Phantom of the Opera, based on a 1911 French novel by Gaston Leroux, is about a disfigured genius named Erik who lives in the catacombs of the Paris Opera House and falls in love with Christine, an aspiring singer whom he helps…until an old flame of Christine’s named Raoul steps back into the picture.
However, the story in the musical, written and composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber — with more than its share of 1980′s heavy power ballads — is starting to take second place to the story of the musical, which is the longest-running Broadway musical of all time, and the most profitable. It’s a tourist favorite, which is why I list it (an exception to recommendations based on “my taste.”)

WICKED
Gershwin Theater (222 West 51st Street)
Opened: October 30, 2003
Twitter: @WICKED_Musical
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.

 

THREE GREAT PLAYS

Broadway is full of “straight” (non-musical) plays, which don’t tend to have long runs and aren’t publicized as much, but can be both more substantive and more satisfying.

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME
Ethel Barrymore Theater (243 West 47th Street)
Opened: April 5, 2014
Twitter: @CuriousBroadway

Like the unusual character at its center, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time,’ a stage adaptation of a beloved book, overcomes a couple of daunting challenges to become…extraordinary…Marianne Elliott, the British director who last brought to Broadway the spectacular National Theatre production of ‘War Horse,’ works her magic again. The stagecraft of ‘Curious Incident’ is breathtaking.  It is scheduled to close September 4, 2016.

ECLIPSED
John Golden Theater (252 West 45th Street)
Opened: March 6, 2016
Twitter: @EclipsedBway
I probably shouldn’t even list this because it’s closing June 19, 2016. But “Eclipsed,” by TV star Danai Gurira featuring movie star Lupita Nyong’o is worth catching in the short time it has left. A play about the captive wives of a rebel officer during the Liberian Civil War, this could easily have been a noble, grim and largely unwatchable testament to man’s inhumanity towards woman in wartime. But it turns out to be a well-acted ensemble piece and a thought-provoking drama that is surprisingly vibrant, and sometimes even whimsical.

THE HUMANS
Helen Hayes (240 West 44th Street)
Opened: February 18, 2016
Twitter: @TheHumansPlay

The Humans tells the deceptively simple story of a family who meets for Thanksgiving.  A hit Off-Broadway, its transfer to Broadway is timely, given its expression of middle class anxieties, but remains most noteworthy for the exquisite performances by some of New York’s finest stage actors, including Reed Birney and Jayne Houdyshell. For all the problems the characters face, the actors are superb in communicating an affection and good humor that feels genuine and that draws us in. They do justice to the work of playwright Stephen Karam.

 

RECENTLY OPENED

FUN HOME
Circle in the Square Theater (235 West 50th Street)
Opened: April 19, 2015
Twitter: @FunHomeMusical

Fun Home, based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, is, yes, a musical about a lesbian cartoonist whose closeted father killed himself, but it is also about how we try to figure out the puzzle of our parents; about how we reassemble our childhood; about memory itself. It remains the inventive, entertaining, in places exhilarating, and almost inexpressibly heartbreaking show I saw Off-Broadway at the Public Theater a couple of years ago. And it is now one of those rare Off-Broadway musicals that actually improves when it transfers to Broadway. This is not despite the theater-in-the-round layout of the Circle in the Square, but in some measure because of it.

SHE LOVES ME
Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street, New York, NY, 10019)
Opened: March 17, 2016

I’ll admit to prejudice towards this show, having played one of the leads in my junior high school. But even somebody who has never heard of this romantic musical comedy could easily fall in love with “She Loves Me.” Yes, the 1963 musical occasionally offers some dated views towards women. But, as with the plot of the show — about two bickering co-workers who don’t realize they are Lonelyhearts Club correspondents and potential lovebirds —  all rights itself by the end. This is 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. This show is scheduled to close July 10.

THE COLOR PURPLE
Bernard B. Jacobs Theater (242 West 45th Street)
Opened: December 10, 2015
Twitter: @BwayColorPurple

The scaled-down and wised-up revival of this musical based on Alice Walker’s sad and inspiring novel offers 18 tuneful, toe-tapping melodies in a variety of styles – gospel, blues, ragtime, jazz and some beautiful ballads. The main reason to see the show is the star, Cynthia Erivo, who sings in a crystal-clear voice that is capable of both exquisite nuance and shattering power.

 

WHAT ABOUT GREAT CHOREOGRAPHY?

Check out An American in Paris, On Your Feet, and Shuffle Along.

WHAT ABOUT HAMILTON?

I loved Hamilton, both Off-Broadway and on Broadway, finding it ground-breaking and breathtaking. But it’s not worth spending the kind of money that it would take to get a ticket this summer — and not just from the resellers, but from the show itself, which is selling 200 “premium” tickets per performance for $849 — which is very much a record  (nearly twice as much as any other show on Broadway.)

There IS a daily lottery online (and in person for Wednesday matinees), where you can try your luck at snagging one of the 21 tickets for $10.

 

Check out my preferences (not predictions) for the 2016 Tony Awards

2016 Drama Desk Awards: The Humans, Shuffle Along, She Loves Me Big Winners

DramaDeskAwardslogo2016

The Humans, Shuffle Along and She Loves Me are the big winners of the 61st Annual Drama Desk Awards, each scoring in four categories, including, respectively,  outstanding play, musical and musical revival.

Frank Langella of The Father, Jessica Lange of Long Day’s Journey into Night, Danny Burstein of Fiddler on the Roof, and Cynthia Erivo of The Color Purple won the four outstanding lead performers.

American Psycho won three awards on the night that it was closing, only six weeks after it opened.

See full list below. Winners have an asterisk and highlighted in red.

Also below, in green, are my personal votes. (I’m a voting member of the Drama Desk.) In those categories in which you only see red, it means I voted with the majority.

Outstanding Play
The Christians, Playwrights Horizons
*The Humans, Roundabout Theatre Company
John, Signature Theatre
King Charles III
The Royale, Lincoln Center Theater

Outstanding Musical
First Daughter Suite, Public Theater
Daddy Long Legs
School of Rock
*Shuffle Along
Waitress

Outstanding Revival of a Play
Cloud Nine, Atlantic Theater Company
Death of a Salesman, New Yiddish Rep
Henry IV, Donmar Warehouse at St. Ann’s Warehouse
Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Roundabout Theatre Company
*A View From the Bridge
Women Without Men, Mint Theater Company

A View from the Bridge 11

Outstanding Revival of a Musical
The Color Purple
The Golden Bride, National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene
Fiddler on the Roof
*She Loves Me, Roundabout Theatre Company
Spring Awakening

Laura Benanti

Laura Benanti

Outstanding Book of a Musical

*John Caird, Daddy Long Legs
Michael John LaChiusa, First Daughter Suite
Jessie Nelson, Waitress

Outstanding Actor in a Play
Andrew Garman, The Christians, Playwrights Horizons
Avi Hoffman, Death of a Salesman
*Frank Langella, The Father, Manhattan Theatre Club
Tim Pigott-Smith, King Charles III
Mark Strong, A View From the Bridge

Outstanding Actress in a Play
Georgia Engel, John, Signature Theatre
Mamie Gummer, Ugly Lies the Bone, Roundabout Undeground
Marin Ireland, Ironbound, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater/Women’s Project Theater
*Jessica Lange, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Nicola Walker, A View From the Bridge

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
*Danny Burstein, Fiddler on the Roof
Robert Creighton, Cagney, York Theatre Company
Michael C. Hall, Lazarus, New York Theatre Workshop
Zachary Levi, She Loves Me
Benjamin Walker, American Psycho

Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Laura Benanti, She Loves Me
Carmen Cusack, Bright Star
*Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple
Jessie Mueller, Waitress
Annette O’Toole, Southern Comfort, Public Theater

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play
Bill Camp, The Crucible
David Furr, Noises Off, Roundabout Theatre Company
Matt McGrath, The Legend of Georgia McBride, MCC Theater
Richard Thomas, Incident at Vichy, Signature Theatre
*Michael Shannon, Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
Brooke Bloom, Cloud Nine
Megan Hilty, Noises Off
Kellie Overbey, Women Without Men
*Saycon Sengbloh, Eclipsed, Public Theater
Jeanine Serralles, Gloria, Vineyard Theatre

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical
Nicholas Barasch, She Loves Me
*Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress
Baylee Littrell, Disaster!
Paul Alexander Nolan, Bright Star
A.J. Shively, Bright Star

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical
Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple
Alison Fraser, First Daughter Suite
Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen, Second Stage
*Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me
Mary Testa, First Daughter Suite

Outstanding Director of a Play
Rachel Chavkin, The Royale
Sam Gold, John
Rupert Goold, King Charles III
Joe Mantello, The Humans
Jenn Thompson, Women Without Men
*Ivo van Hove, A View From the Bridge

Outstanding Director of a Musical (tie)
Michael Arden, Spring Awakening
*John Doyle, The Color Purple
Rupert Goold, American Psycho
*Bartlett Sher, Fiddler on the Roof
Bryna Wasserman, Motl Didner, The Golden Bride

Outstanding Choreography
Joshua Bergasse, Cagney
Spencer Liff, Spring Awakening
Lynne Page, American Psycho
Randy Skinner, Dames at Sea
*Savion Glover, Shuffle Along

Outstanding Music
Sara Bareilles, Waitress
Michael John LaChiusa, First Daughter Suite
Andrew Lloyd Webber, School of Rock
The Lobbyists, SeaWife, Naked Angels
*Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Bright Star

Outstanding Lyrics
Sara Bareilles, Waitress
*Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Dear Evan Hansen
Glenn Slater, School of Rock
Michael John LaChiusa, First Daughter Suite

Outstanding Orchestrations
August Eriksmoen, Bright Star
*Larry Hochman, She Loves Me, Roundabout Theatre Company
Joseph Joubert/Catherine Jayes, The Color Purple
Andrew Lloyd Webber, School of Rock
Michael Starobin/Bruce Coughlin, First Daughter Suite

Outstanding Music in a Play
Billie Joe Armstrong, These Paper Bullets!, Atlantic Theatre Company
Estelle Bajou, Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally, One Year Lease Theater Company
Shaun Davey, Pericles, Theatre for a New Audience
*Philip Glass, The Crucible
Tom Kitt, Cymbeline, New York Shakespeare Festival

Outstanding Set Design for a Play
Riccardo Hernandez, Red Speedo, New York Theatre Workshop
Mimi Lien, John
G.W. Mercier, Head of Passes, Public Theater
*Christopher Oram, Hughie
Derek McLane, Fully Committed

Outstanding Set Design for a Musical
Es Devlin, American Psycho
Emily Orling, Matt Saunders, Eric Farber, Futurity, Soho Rep/Ars Nova
*David Rockwell, She Loves Me

Outstanding Costume Design for a Play
Jessica Ford, These Paper Bullets!
Martha Hally, Women Without Men
Constance Hoffman, Pericles
William Ivey Long, Shows for Days, Lincoln Center Theater
*Anita Yavich, The Legend of Georgia McBride

Outstanding Costume Design for a Musical
Jane Greenwood, Bright Star
Katrina Lindsay, American Psycho
Jeff Mahshie, She Loves Me
Alejo Vietti, Allegiance
*Ann Roth, Shuffle Along

Outstanding Lighting Design for a Play
Neil Austin, Hughie
Mark Barton, John
Bradley King, Empanada Loca, Labyrinth Theater Company
Tyler Micoleau, Antlia Pneumatica, Playwrights Horizons
*Justin Townsend, The Humans

Outstanding Lighting Design for a Musical
Jane Cox, The Color Purple
Jake DeGroot, SeaWife
Ben Stanton, Spring Awakening
*Justin Townsend, American Psycho
Jules Fisher/Peggy Eisenhauer, Shuffle Along

Outstanding Projection Design
Nicholas Hussong, These Paper Bullets!
Darrel Maloney, Tappin’ Thru Life
Peter Nigrini, Dear Evan Hansen
*Finn Ross, American Psycho
Tal Yarden, Lazarus

Outstanding Sound Design in a Play
Fitz Patton, An Act of God
*Fitz Patton, The Humans
Miles Polaski, Fulfillment, The Flea Theatre
Bray Poor, John
Ryan Rumery, Empanada Loca

Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical
Mick Potter, School of Rock
Brian Ronan, Lazarus
Nevin Steinberg, Bright Star
*Dan Moses Schreier, American Psycho
Scott Lehrer, Shuffle Along

Outstanding Wig and Hair
David Brian Brown, She Loves Me
Jason Hayes, The Legend of Georgia McBride
Robert-Charles Vallance, Women Without Men
Charles G. LaPointe, The School for Scandal, Red Bull Theater
*Mia M. Neal, Shuffle Along

Outstanding Solo Performance
Simon Callow, Tuesdays at Tesco’s, 59E59
Kathleen Chalfant, Rose, Nora’s Playhouse
James Lecesne, The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey
Daphne Rubin-Vega, Empanada Loca
*Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Fully Committed

Unique Theatrical Experience
ADA/AVA, Manual Cinema/3LD/The Tank
Antigona – Soledad Barrio/Noche Flamenca
*That Physics Show
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show
YOUARENOWHERE – 3LD/The Tank

Special Awards

 
*The Humans – Special Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble
Cassie Beck, Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, Lauren Klein, Arian Moayed, and Sarah Steele spend a very special Thanksgiving Day together in Stephen Karam’s play, reminding us that home is indeed where The Humans are.
*The Royale – Special Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble
The heavyweight cast of McKinley Belcher III, Khris Davis, Montego Glover, John Lavelle, and Clarke Peters gels as a unit in bringing Marco Ramirez’s story, inspired by Jack Johnson, to unforgettable life, offering a trenchant statement on racism in America.
*Sheldon Harnick – Special Drama Desk Award
New productions of Fiddler on the RoofRothschild and Sons, and She Loves Me this season remind us that this veteran lyricist’s takes on faith, family and community are as resonant as ever.
*Camp Broadway – Special Drama Desk Award
For more than 20 years, this indispensable organization has introduced young people to the magic of theater. Camp Broadway plays a crucial role in creating tomorrow’s audiences.
*Danai Gurira – Sam Norkin Award
Whether writing about women in wartime Liberia in Eclipsed or about an affluent immigrant family from Zimbabwe struggling with assimilation in Familiar, Danai Gurira demonstrates great insight, range, and depth, bringing a fresh new voice to American theater.
Check out the explanation of the various theater awards in my guide to 2016 New York City theater awards
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