September 2016 New York Theater Openings

Politics is in the air,  and it inevitably lands on the New York stage, with some half-dozen shows opening in September that one could call political theater, including an American president put on trial, and the next installment of the in-real-time Gabriel series at the Public Theater.

Black/Light

Black/Light

This also includes Lewis Black’s stand-up routine, one of two solo shows opening on Broadway this month. The other, a hit in the UK, tells the true story of a wild adventure in the Amazon (the jungle, not the website.) Off-Broadway, Judith Light is starring in a solo play by Neil LaBute. There are also biographical shows about actor Edwin Booth, composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, “Queen of Race Records” Sister Rosetta Tharpe, 19th century insurrectionist Nat Turner, and one of the first women police detectives in New York. Salsa singer Tito Nieves makes his musical theater debut. And then there’s something called “Wild Women of Planet Wongo,” which sounds like an escapee from the Fringe.

Below is a selection of the plays, musicals and difficult-to-label theater pieces opening in September, organized chronologically by opening date. Each title is linked to a relevant website.

Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Purple, blue or black. Off Off Broadway: Green.

 

September 2

Twelfth Night (Shakespeare in the Park)

This Public Theater Public Works production that features some 200 performers from all five boroughs runs for just four performances.

September 8

Edwin (Great Circle Prods at Theatre at St. Clement’s)

Edwin Booth poster

The story of Edwin Booth, the most celebrated American actor of the 19th century, on the night of his return to the stage after his brother assassinated President Lincoln–braving death threats, public outrage, and his own scarred past.

Bliss (Black Moon Theatre Company at The Flea) 

Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead; “a visual and poetic dance/theatre odyssey within the mind of an individual striving to awaken to a Higher Consciousness.”

September 11

 The Wolves (Playwrights Realm at the Duke)

The Wolves at Playwrights Realm

A play by Sarah DeLappe, making her professional debut, featuring an all-female ten-member cast as a suburban girls’ soccer team coming to terms with the world and their own changing adolescent bodies.

 

 Maestro (59 E 59)

Maestro

A solo show about Leonard Bernstein. “Conductor, composer, pianist, author, teacher, librettist, television star, and composer ofWest Side Story, Candide, and On the Town, Bernstein pushed all boundaries to become the world’s first serious musical superstar. In Maestro, Hershey Felder combines narrative with Leonard Bernstein’s composition and the music of Beethoven, Wagner, Mahler, Copland, and others, to bring to life the man the entire world knew as “Lenny.””

 

September 12

Aubergine (Playwrights Horizons)

Aubergine-2.png__960x480_q85_crop_upscale

A new play by Julia Cho. “A man shares a bowl of berries, and a young woman falls in love. A world away, a mother prepares a bowl of soup to keep her son from leaving home. And a son cooks a meal for his dying father to say everything that words can’t. In Julia Cho’s poignant and lyrical new play, the making of a perfect meal is an expression more precise than language, and the medium through which life gradually reveals itself.”

 

Black to the Future (Marquis)

BlacktotheFuture

(four Mondays Sept 12 – Oct 24)

Lewis Black’s political stand-up on six Monday nights when On Your Feet isn’t playing.

 

September 14

Marie and Rosetta (Atlantic Theater)

Marie and Rosetta poster

A drama about the “Queen of Race Records” Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who influenced Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles and Jimi Hendrix

 

September 15

Missed Connections: A Craigslist Musical (New Ohio Theater)

 

Based on real Craigslist Ads – “Your Personal Ads Set To Music” A hit in Canada

Dead Shot Mary (Bridge Theatre at Shetler Studios)

DeadShotMary

“A pioneer for females in law enforcement, Mary Shanley joined the NYPD in 1931, quickly becoming a Gotham all-star and tabloid sensation. Making a staggering 1,000 career arrests, she became the 4th woman in history to make detective 1st grade, and then nearly lost it all.”

 

Occupation: Dragonslayer (The Robert Moss Theatre)

A musical tale of 9/11 “retold for the 15th anniversary…In Christmas Eve in 2002, a mysterious stranger in fire deparmtnet garb pays a visit to a doomed diner at Ground Zero and changes the lives of all within. The musical was originally commissioned by the Public Theater

 

 September 16

 

What Did You Expect (Public Theater)

What did you expect gabriels

The latest in the three play cycle by Richard Nelson, “The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family.” The first play in the cycle, Hungry, opened March 4, which is the date in which it is set.  The cycle will culminate with the third play, Women of a Certain Age, which will be both set and open – and which the playwright will finish writing – on Election Day, November 8, 2016.

 

September 18

 

 On The Rails (777 Theatre)

Three tales of different couples, set on board “a mystical, timeless locomotive”

How To Be An American (York Theatre Company)

HowToBeAnAmerican poster

Based on Plunkitt of Tammany Hall — A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics (a notorious book among students of American political history that introduced the concept of  “honest graft.” ) “The year is 1905. One week before the next election. New York City. Tammany Hall politician George Washington Plunkitt has gathered a group of new immigrants for the purpose of educating them on the subtleties of the American political system.” Only ten performances.

 

September 19

 Where Did We Sit on the Bus? (Ensemble Studio Theatre)

WhereDidWeSitontheBuspic

During a third grade lesson on the Civil Rights movement and Rosa Parks, a Latino boy raises his hand to ask, “Where did we sit on the bus?” and his teacher can’t answer the question. This autobiographical solo show, written and performed by Brian Quijada, examines what it means to be Latino through the eyes of a child, turned teenager, turned adult.

 

September 22

 I Like It Like That (Puerto Rican Traveling Theater)

TitoNieves

Salsa star Tito Nieves stars in the first musical theater role of his career, in the story of the Rodriguez family living in New York City’s East Harlem in the early 1970s, when music was the lifeline and proudest expression of El Barrio.

 

September 26

 Nat Turner in Jerusalem (New York Theatre Workshop)

Nat Turner in Jerusalem

In August 1831, Nat Turner led a slave uprising that shook the conscience of the nation. Turner’s startling account of his prophecy and the insurrection was recorded and published by attorney Thomas R. Gray. NYTW 2050 Fellow Nathan Alan Davis makes his New York debut with a timely new play that imagines Turner’s final night in a jail cell in Jerusalem, Virginia, as he is revisited by Gray and they reckon with what has passed and what the dawn will bring.

 

Underground Railroad Game (Ars Nova)

 

Good morning, America! Welcome to Hanover Middle School, where a pair of teachers are getting down and dirty with today’s lesson. The nimble duo goes round after round on the mat of our nation’s history, tackling race, sex and power in this R-rated, kaleidoscopic and fearless comedy.

 

September 28

 

 All The Ways To Say I Love You (MCC @ The Lucille Lortel)

JudithLightinLaBute

Judith Light stars in this hour-long solo show by Neil LaBute about a high school English teacher and guidance counselor in a loving marriage. “As she recounts her experiences with a favored student from her past, Mrs. Johnson slowly reveals the truth that is hidden just beneath the surface details of her life.”

 

 Verso (New World Stages)

Verso

An evening of illusion with one of the world’s premier close-up magic artists, Helder Guimarães.

 

Wild Women of Planet Wongo (Parkside Lounge)

WildWomenofPlanetWongo

An immersive, outer space comedy about two astronauts who land on a planet of beautiful warrior women who have never seen men. The show will be performed “party-style” meaning they expect audience to drink, dance and otherwise be part of the show.

 

 

September 29

 

 The Encounter (John Golden Theater)

The Encounter photo by Stavros Petropoulos

The Encounter is a solo show written and performed by Simon McBurney: Twenty years ago Simon McBurney was given a book written by a Romanian who escaped the Ceaușescu regime to reinvent himself as a Los Angeles screenwriter. Amazon Beaming tells the story of photographer Loren McIntyre, who in 1969 found himself lost amongst the remote people of the Javari Valley, on the border between Brazil and Peru. It was an encounter that changed his life: bringing the limits of human consciousness into startling focus.”

 

The Trial of an American President (Theatre Row)

The Trial of an American President

Will President George W. Bush be found guilty of launching an illegal war that caused civilian deaths and spawned the growth of Al-Qaeda and ISIS and the use of brutal torture? Members of the audience are selected as the jury for this trial.

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