Amélie Review: Phillipa Soo to the rescue

Adam Chanler-Berat and Phillipa Soo in Amélie

Judging from the last few minutes of “Amélie,” when the two adorable eccentrics Amélie and Nino finally kiss, the new musical feels like a charming and almost traditional romantic comedy, especially since the leads are portrayed by two of Broadway’s most appealing and talented young stars, both of whom have names that it takes practice to spell correctly — Phillipa Soo and Adam Chanler-Berat.

But the first 90 minutes or so of “Amélie,” an adaptation of the 2001 French movie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, are a full-out exercise in whimsy. Indeed, before “Amélie” even begins, the curtain comes alive with the random flittering of little birds, bunnies and butterflies. The animation is subtle and endearing, but I suppose I could have taken it as a warning. The last time I remember seeing such a wonderfully animated Broadway curtain was at the 2011 musical Wonderland, an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland that failed to win over critics or the public, and closed after a month.

“Amélie” features a fine cast; clever, playful design; and a pleasing if unmemorable pop score. It also features Fluffy the singing goldfish, a plaster Garden Gnome come to life, (a character impersonating) Elton John singing to Amelie as if she were Princess Diana, a café full of lovelorn eccentrics, and Soo/Amelie disguising herself at times as a nun and as Zorro. Much of this was in the movie as well, but there the colorful characters and fanciful subplots all felt part of the enchanting if ironic swirl on screen (underscored  by composer Yann Tiersen bouncy French soundtrack full of accordion and mandolin.)  The stage at the Walter Kerr, by contrast, feels crowded with details, distractions and digressions that are sometimes hard to follow, even though the characters take turns narrating; saying things like “Her true destiny confirmed,Amélie decides to celebrate her new life by daydreaming alone in her apartment.” (It very much helps to have seen the movie.) The musicalized vignettes are often presented like children’s theater run amok. “Amélie” the musical has a shorter running time than “Amélie” the movie, but it feels longer.

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

Like the movie, the musical begins with Amélie as a child (here portrayed winningly by Savvy Crawford), being raised by a cold-fish physician father who only touches her when he gives her an annual physical, and a neurotic mother who insists on homeschooling her daughter, which means she is kept isolated from children her own age. On an educational trip to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Amelie’s mother is killed when a Belgian tourist commits suicide by jumping off the cathedral and landing on top of her.

The adult Amelie moves to Paris and, five years later, is working as a waitress in Montmartre.

The upbringing we just witnessed seems to have turned her into a loner, who is unable to form intimate relationships, and who lives largely in her imagination. After the death of Princess Di, she imagines herself as the Princess (hence the fantasy with Elton John), and sees herself assuming Diana’s legacy by performing kindnesses for strangers. This is where all the side stories kick in. A blind beggar objects when Amelie drops a coin in his cup because “It’s after 5; I’m not working,” but she eventually wins him over by her vivid descriptions of the street life. Lucien loves his figs, seeing the vegetables as almost human, so Amelie sets one of the figs up with a date. (Get it?) Above all, she serves as a secret matchmaker for the denizens of the café.

Amélie first encounters Nino in a train station on her way to one of her rescue missions. Nino is kneeling in front of a photobooth collecting the discarded photographs on the ground, and she trips over him. He’s an artist, you see, although he works as a clerk in a porn shop to make a living (which is one of the things that probably makes “Amelie” inappropriate for children.)

Thus begins, more or less, their romance — long-developing, much-interrupted, in which Amélie spends much of her time running away from him. My favorite song of the two dozen in the show, “A Better Haircut,” – tuneful, clever and energetic – occurs when Nino, through a series of odd events, winds up on Nino’s instruction at her café, where her workers and customers confront him about his intentions. The ensemble sings:

You might be a lover for the ages
but can you prove that you
are not highly contagious

Finally, he responds that there are no guarantees, and

I understand she may not even feel the same
[but]
I love her and I don’t know her name

This is near the end of the musical and Nino and Amélie have not really even had a conversation with one another.

So perhaps their love affair is unrealistic, but certainly more realistic than the talking goldfish, and also fully in keeping with romantic comedy convention. Besides, many a theatergoer has already fallen in love with Phillipa Soo. Straight out of Juilliard, she was cast at age 22 as Natasha in “Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812”, to great acclaim, but left that show before it transferred to Broadway in order to originate the role of Eliza in “Hamilton.” It might be difficult to find anybody who would say that her performance in the role she originates in “Amelie” is as wondrous as the ones she originated in “The Great Comet” or “Hamilton,” but it puts her on stage where she belongs, and where I suspect she will be from now on – front and center.

Amélie

Walter Kerr Theater

Book by Craig Lucas; Music by Daniel Messé; Lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messé; Musical staging and choreography by Sam Pinkleton

Directed by Pam MacKinnon

Scenic Design by David Zinn; Costume Design by David Zinn; Lighting Design by Jane Cox and Mark Barton; Sound Design by Kai Harada; Projection Design by Peter Nigrini; Puppet Design by Amanda Villalobos; Hair and Wig Design by Charles G. LaPointe;

Cast: Phillipa Soo as Amélie, Adam Chanler-Berat as Nino,David Andino as Blind Beggar, Garden Gnome, Anchorperson; Randy Blair as Hipolito, Belgian Tourist; Heath Calvert as Lucin; Adrien Wells as Mysterious Man; Alison Cimmet as Amandine,Philomene; Savvy Crawford as Young Amélie; Manoel Felciano as Raphael,Bretodeau; Harriett D. Foy as Suzanne; Alyse Alan Louis as Georgette, Sylvie , Collignon’s Mother; Maria-Christina Oliveras as Gina;Tony Sheldon as Collignon, Dufayel; Paul Whitty as Joseph, Fluffy, Collignon’s Father. Swings: Emily Afton, Trey Ellett, Destinee Rea and Jacob Keith Watson. Understudies: Emily Afton (Amélie), Audrey Bennett (Young Amélie), Alyse Alan Louis (Amélie), Jacob Keith Watson (Nino) and Paul Whitty (Collignon, Dufayel)

Running time: 110 minutes, no intermission.

Tickets: $79.50 to $199.50

Advertisements

War Paint Reviews: Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole in An American Feud

Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole

“War Paint” depicts the feud that changed the face of America’s women. The cosmetics industry was born from the rivalry between two immigrants turned entrepreneurs:
Elizabeth Arden,  a Canadian born Florence Nightingale Graham, portrayed by Christine Ebersole and Helena Rubinstein, a Jew from Poland born Chaja Rubinstein  played by
Patti LuPone
What do the critics think now that it has opened on Broadway’s Nederlander Theater? Details below:

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

Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater:  Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole are sharing a Broadway stage for the first time in their careers… If I might have preferred they be given a rivalry as grand as the talents of these extraordinary performers – say, Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots, whom she beheaded – they do much to help make this new musical both entertaining and fabulous…For all its appeal, “War Paint” does not surmount some logistical problems that are likely to make some of the scenes heavy-going to all but ardent students of the beauty industry that the two women helped create.

Adam Feldman, Time Out NY: “There are two excellent reasons to see War Paint, and their names are above the title…the musical doesn’t make a persuasive case that its stories must be told.”

Ben Brantley, New York Times: “The two stars “are not coasting on the market value of their star appeal. They’re strategically deploying the knowledge and craft of a combined eight decades in musicals to make us believe that the show in which they appear is moving forward, instead of running in place in high heels….[T]hough my eyes occasionally glazed seeing “War Paint” for the second time, I wouldn’t have missed it, if only to hear its leading ladies’ climactic ballads.”

Charles Isherwood, Broadway News: “…Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole [give] performances of such resplendent force, wit and vivacity that the evening gleams like a freshly applied coat of nail polish catching the light…All the gloss cannot mask a monotony that sets in when we realize that the story unfolding will never acquire the emotional depth that can turn an enjoyable musical into a memorable, even transporting one.”:

Jesse Green, New York Magazine: Beguiling but frustrating…For all the intelligence, sophistication, and sheer talent involved — LuPone and Ebersole are in top form — ‘War Paint’ keeps falling between an older model of storytelling and a new one, never fully climbing its way out of the gap

Joe Dziemianowicz, Daily News: “They’re so good, you wish the show were better. As is, it’s polished to a high shine but bland and scarcely skin deep.”

Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: “The stars are starry, the sets are glossy, and the book is full of snappy one-liners. In the end, though, “War Paint” fails to keep its costly promise… The plot of the show fails to pass the who-cares test.”

Linda Winer, Newsday : “War Paint” may not be one of the great musicals, but it is an enormously satisfying one. Yes, it is a showcase for established artists hungry for new material. But the show, sleekly and compassionately directed by Michael Greif and created by the team that made the haunting “Grey Gardens,” looks at American women from 1934 to 1964 through a new lens — from the lives of two business titans who took lipstick from harlots to high society.”

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: “War Paint” is a musical about Catherine Zuber’s fabulous costumes and magnificent hats, as modeled by the great Patti LuPone as Helena Rubenstein and her Highness, Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden. And if those hallowed names mean nothing to you, this is not your show….it really is hard to concentrate on the plot when Ebersole is swanning around in a gorgeous rose-petal-pink silk suit…Luckily, there’s not much plot”

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: “…despite its relatively low-key dramatic engine, this is a smart, sophisticated exploration of two uncompromising personalities.”

Robert Hofler, The Wrap: “These ladies who wear hats but do much more than lunch are knockouts. How rare it is to see two great female performances in one season, much less one musical…”

Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: “…the musical’s DOA, a high-stakes game of table-tennis…manages to be a huge bore.”

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: “..the show ultimately demurs when it comes to holding the great titans of makeup, and the men who surrounded them, to moral account. And that is what might just have made “War Paint” a truly great musical, instead of a highly entertaining and provocative one.”

Robert Kahn, NBC: “…The score, by “Grey Gardens” team Scott Frankel and Michael Korie — Wright and Ebersole were also both part of that memorable 2006 musical — is tuneful and catchy, winding up to a pair of bittersweet releases for the stars, just before the finale: “Pink,” sung by Ebersole, and “Forever Beautiful,” from LuPone. Good God, the women’s voices are in astounding condition.

Matt Windman, AM New York “The musical is built around an unwieldy and repetitive Ping-Pong structure of shifting back and forth between the two characters…However, “War Paint” still has a lot going for it, including self-empowered protagonists, high-powered performances, well-crafted period-style songs, the classy aura of old-school New York and the smooth direction of Michael Greif.”

Christopher Kelly, NJ.com“…earnest and relatively subdued…Anyone heading into “War Paint” looking for “Valley of the Dolls”-style hair-pulling — or even “Dynasty”-style name calling — will likely be disappointed; in fact, until the very last scene, LuPone and Ebersole’s characters don’t even directly speak to one another.”

 

Present Laughter with Kevin Kline: Review and pics

After a decade’s absence from Broadway, Kevin Kline returns as the aging matinee idol in Present Laughter. Kline, the swashbuckler of Pirates of Penzance and the hunk of On The Twentieth Century, would be welcome back in almost any theatrical vehicle. Yet this sixth Broadway production of Noel Coward’s 1939 comedy doesn’t add up to any special kind of thrill ride

Full review on DC Theatre Scene 

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

The Play That Goes Wrong: Review, Pics

Before the play-within-the-play begins, its director apologizes for “the box office mix-up,” expressing hope that “the 617 of you affected will enjoy our little murder mystery just as much as you would have enjoyed Hamilton.” That’s the most sophisticated joke – indeed one of the few verbal ones — in this silly slapstick backstage farce that has improbably opened on Broadway.
Audiences may indeed enjoy The Play That Goes Wrong….if not as much as Hamilton, perhaps, surely as much as Noises Off, which it resembles, minus the plates of sardines nor anything approaching that play’s cleverness. And I say this having called Noises Off, when it had its second Broadway revival last year, little more than The Three Stooges with a British accent.

Click on any photograph by Jeremy Daniel to see it enlarged.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene 

 

Poll: Favorite Broadway Show Opening in April, 2017

Which of the 14 plays and musicals opening on Broadway in April are you most looking forward to?
Below they are listed chronologically by opening date.

For more information about the shows, check out April, 2017 New York Theater Openings

April 2017 NY Theater Openings

The 14 shows opening on Broadway in April — one-third of all the shows for the entire Broadway season — include seven musicals and seven plays. There are two hit plays Off-Broadway transferring to the Great White Way, four revivals, four musicals based on movies. and a sequel to a play written 138 years ago. The stars on stage include Bette Midler, Allison Janney, Kevin Kline, Phillipa Soo and Adam Chaler-Berat, Laurie Metcalf, Christian Borle, Corey Cott and Laura Osnes, Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon.

And all that’s just on Broadway. There are almost a dozen more intriguing shows Off-Broadway and Off Off Broadway opening in the month of April.

Below is a list, organized chronologically by opening date, with descriptions. Each title is linked to a relevant website.

Color key: Broadway: RedOff Broadway: Purple or BlueOff 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

APRIL 2

The Play That Goes Wrong

play-that-goes-wrong-logoBroadway Theater: Lyceum
Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields
Director: Mark Bell
Cast: Matthew Cavendish, Bryony Corrigan, Rob Falconer, Dave Hearn, Henry Lewis, Charlie Russell, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields, Greg Tannahill, and Nancy Zamit.
Olivier Award-winning comedy about an amateur university production that goes hopelessly awry

Twitter: @BwayGoesWrong

Buy tickets to The Play That Goes Wrong

APRIL 3

Amelie

amelie-logoBroadway Theater: Walter Kerr
Written by Dan Messé (music), Nathan Tyson (lyrics), Craig Lucas (book)
Director: Pam MacKinnon
Cast: Phillipa Soo and Adam Chanler-Berat
A musical adaptation of the  2001 film, which starred Audrey Tautou as a shy waitress with a wild imagination.

@AmelieBroadway

Buy tickets to Amelie

APRIL 4

Daniel’s Husband (Primary Stages at Cherry Lane)

In this play by Michael McKeever, Daniel longs to be married and Mitchell does not.  A turn of events forces both men to face the consequences of their opposing views, and they learn that they are living in a world where fundamental rights aren’t always so fundamental

The Lightning Thief (MCC at Lortel)

A stage adaptation of the best-selling novel by Rick Riordan. The Greek gods are real, and they’re ruining Percy Jackson’s life. As a son of Poseidon, Percy has newly discovered powers he can’t control, monsters on his trail, and he is on an epic quest to find Zeus’s lightning bolt and prevent a war between the gods

APRIL 5

Present Laughter

present-laughter-logoBroadway Theater: St. James

Playwright: Noël Coward
Director: Moritz von Suelpnagel
Cast: Kevin Kline

Revival of the 1940s comedy about the tribulations of a popular matinee idol.

@laughteronbway

Buy tickets to Present Laughter

 

Gently Down The Stream (Public Theater)

In this play by Martin Sherman (Bent, The Boy From Oz), Harvey Fierstein portray Beau, an expatriate pianist living in London, who meets the younger Rufus, an eccentric young lawyer, at the dawn of the Internet dating revolution.

 

APRIL 6

War Paint

war-paint-logo
Theater: Nederlander
Writers: Book by Doug Wright; music and lyrics by Scott Frankel and Michael Korie
Director: Michael Grief; choreographer: Christopher Gattelli
Cast: Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole
Musical based on the rivalry of cosmetics titans Helena Rubenstein (LuPone) and Elizabeth Arden (Ebersole)

 

@warpaintmusical

Buy tickets to War Paint

APRIL 9

The Profane (Playwrights Horizons)

In this play by Zayd Dohrn, Raif Almedin is a first-generation immigrant who prides himself on his modern, enlightened views. But when his daughter falls for the son of a conservative Muslim family in White Plains, he discovers the threshold of his tolerance.

APRIL 12

In and Of Itself (Daryl Roth Theater)

Created and performed by magician Derek DelGaudio: ” a modern allegory that explores new ways of seeing the unseeable, as memories from yesterday are blended with inexplicable events witnessed today and secrets imagined for tomorrow…”

oslo-logo

APRIL 13

Oslo

Broadway Theater: Vivian Beaumont at Lincoln Center
Playwright: J.T. Rogers
Director: Bartlett Sher
Cast: Jennifer Ehle, Daniel Jenkins, Jefferson Mays and Daniel Oreskes
Transfer of Lincoln Center Theater’s Off-Broadway production of the play about the top-secret, high-level meetings between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization that culminated in the signing of the historic 1993 Oslo Accords.

My review of “Oslo” Off-Broadway

 

@LCTheater

Buy tickets to Oslo

APRIL 17

 Groundhog Day

groundhog-day-logoBroadway Theater: August Wilson
Music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, book by Danny Rubin
Director: Matthew Warchus
Cast: Andy Karl
A musical adaptation of the 1993 Bill Murray film about a cynical Pittsburgh TV weatherman who is sent to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, PA, when he finds himself caught in a time loop, forced to repeat the same day again and again…and again. Will he ever unlock the secret and break the cycle?

 

@Groundhogdaybwy

Buy tickets to Groundhog Day

APRIL 18

Indecent


Playwright: Paula Vogel
Director: Rebecca Taichman

A behind-the-scenes look at the true story of the controversial 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s “God of Vengeance” — “a play seen by some as a seminal work of Jewish culture, and by others as an act of traitorous libel,” in part because of its lesbian lovers.

My review of Indecent Off-Broadway

 

@IndecentBway

Buy tickets to Indecent

Rebel in the Soul (Irish Rep)

Larry Kirwan’s play examines the opposition by the Irish party leader and the Archbishop of Dublin to Dr. Noel Browne, who was elected to the Irish Parliament in 1948 with the aim of ridding Ireland of tuberculosis. “The ensuing crisis  brought down the government and changed Irish life forever.”

APRIL 19

The Little Foxes

Theater: MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman
Playwright: Lillian Hellman
Director: Daniel Sullivan
Cast: Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon

The fifth Broadway production of the 1930 drama about a ruthless Southern belle.

Buy tickets to The Little Foxes

 APRIL 20

Hello, Dolly

Hello Dolly logoBroadway Theater: Shubert
Music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, book by Michael Stewart
Director: Jerry Zaks, choreographer Warren Carlyle
Cast: Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce

Tweeter feed: @HelloDollyBway

The fifth Broadway production of the 1964 musical about a matchmaker who sets out to find a match for herself at the turn of the 20th century.

Buy tickets to Hello, Dolly

Pressing Matters (Theatre Row)

Six quirky stories by Jennifer Jasper

APRIL 22

The Assignment (ART/NY)

A play by Camilo Almonacid based on the friendship between a woman who founded a youth violence prevention program after her teenage son was murdered by street violence, and a man who found education and rehabilitation while serving 17 years in prison for manslaughter.

 APRIL 23

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory logoBroadway Theater: Lunt-Fontanne
Written by David Greig (book), Marc Shaiman (music & lyrics), Scott Wittman (lyrics), Roald Dahl (novel)
Director: Jack O’Brien
Cast: Christian Borle as Willy Wonka
When Charlie wins a golden ticket to the weird and wonderful Wonka Chocolate Factory, it’s the chance of a lifetime to feast on the sweets he’s always dreamed of. But beyond the gates astonishment awaits, as the five lucky winners discover not everything is as sweet as it seems.

 

Buy tickets to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

APRIL 24

Anastasia

Broadway Theater: Broadhurst
Music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, book by Terrence McNally
Director: Darko Tresnjak
Cast: Christy Altomare, Derek Klana, Ramin Karimloo, Mary Beth Peil, John Bolton, and Caroline O’Connor
Inspired by the 1997 film about a young woman who may be the last surviving member of the Russian royal family. The score includes songs from the movie, including the Oscar- nominated “Journey to the Past,” plus an entirely new score from the Tony Award-winning team.

@AnastasiaBway

Buy tickets to Anastasia

APRIL 25

Six Degrees of Separation

Broadway Theater: Barrymore
Playwright: John Guare
Director: Trip Cullman
Cast: Allison Janney, John Benjamin Hickey,   Corey Hawkins
Revival of the 1990 drama about a young con man who is embraced by wealthy New Yorkers after passing himself off as Sidney Poitier’s son.

@SixDegreesBway

Buy tickets to Six Degrees of Separation

APRIL 26

Bandstand

bandstand-logoTheater: Bernard Jacobs
Music by Richard Oberacker and book and lyrics by Robert Taylor and Richard Oberacker
Director/Choreographer: Andy Blankenbuhler
Cast: Laura Osnes and Corey Cott
This “big-band musical” chronicles a mismatched band of WWII veterans who join forces to compete in a radio contest.

@BandstandBway

Buy tickets to Bandstand

 

Her Opponent (Jerry Orbach)

A re-staging of excerpts of the 2016 presidential
debates with gender-reversed casting.

April 27

A Doll’s House, Part 2

a-dolls-house-logoTheater: Golden
First Preview: April 1, 2017
Opening: April 27, 2017
Playwright: Lucas Hnath
Director: Sam Gold
Cast: Laurie Metcalf, Chris Cooper, Jayne Houdyshell, Condola Rashad.
Sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s play, following up after Nora has left her husband and children.

Buy tickets to A Doll’s House, Part 2

@DollsHousePart2

Sweat on Broadway: A Timely Look at American Desperation

Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat,” opens tonight at Studio 54, marking the Pulitzer-winning playwright’s Broadway debut, as well as that  of five of its nine cast members.  It is opening less than five months after its debut Off-Broadway at the Public Theater in November. The creative team and the production are largely the same, as are eight of the nine cast members; the newcomer is Alison Wright, who is best-known as Martha in the FX TV series, The Americans. She portrays Jessie (pictured at far left in the photograph above). The photographs on this page are of the Broadway production. Below is my review of “Sweat” when it opened at the Public Theater:

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

They are current, former and (they fully expect) future employees of a local factory, and they hang out together in a neighborhood bar, where most  of the play takes place.

But Sweat begins in what looks like a dark prison, with a parole officer talking to a young sullen white man, Jason, whose face is covered with white supremacist tattoos.  Then, separately, the parole officer talks to a young black man, Chris, also recently released from prison. It is 2008,  Jason and Chris are connected in some way, and we are left with a question: What happened?

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

The scene shifts to the bar in 2000, and we see that Chris and a boyish, clean-faced Jason (with no tattoos) are fast friends, as are their mothers, Tracey and Cynthia. The question becomes: How did this change?  It’s a crafty set-up, because the question doesn’t just pique our curiosity and create suspense; it’s the heart of the play thematically as well. As Jason puts it later, “How the f… did this happen?”  How did this solid town – and by extension, a significant swath of the working population in America — implode?   If, as Nottage has said in interviews, they were victims of the “de-industrial revolution,” Sweat isn’t as concerned with answering as in bringing us into the world of her credible, engaging characters, embodied by a terrific cast.

The play is the product of Nottage’s extensive field research (as was her Pulitzer Prize-winning Ruined, and as was John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.) But it never feels like research.

Unlike the Joads, the group of people in Sweat are not all related by blood; they have formed a sort of family of friends, across divides of race and ethnicity.  Cynthia, Tracey and a third woman, Jessie, are long-time workers at the Olstead’s factory, and friends for almost as long; they have created a tradition of celebrating their birthdays at the bar. Stan, the bartender, worked for 28 years at Olstead’s, until a workplace injury forced him out of his job. He knows and likes everybody, and the feeling is mutual.

There are hints of tension from the get-go. For one, Cynthia is estranged from her husband (and Chris’s father) Brucie; he is part of a long and fruitless union-organized fight against a different factory, and has turned to drugs for relief.  And then everybody is treated amiably except the other employee of the bar, Oscar, who might as well be invisible.  In a nice example of director Kate Whoriskey’s attention to telling details, while the others chat away and ignore him, Oscar silently crawls under the tables in order to scrape gum off the bottom.

But the strains between some of the characters are the exceptions; there is a feeling of general comity – until it is shattered when the company starts making clear its ominous plans for cost reductions.

What might have been under the surface all along, explodes into envy, resentment and prejudice, fanned by the plant’s divisive actions. Oscar, of Latino descent, shows Tracey a flyer from the company, written in Spanish, advertising job openings (at lower pay.)

“I’m not prejudice…I’m cool with everyone” Tracey says. “But, I mean… C’mon… you guys coming over here, you can get a job faster than…”

“I was born here,” Oscar interrupts.

“Still,” Tracey says, “you wasn’t born here, Berks” – the county where Reading is located.

“Yeah, I was.”

The exchange lands perfectly, thanks to the in-your-face performance  by Broadway veteran Johanna Day (Proof, August: Osage County, You Can’t Take It With You) as Tracey, and the winning mix of diffidence and determination by Carlo Alban as Oscar.

Michelle Wilson is equally effective as Cynthia, who is given a suspiciously-timed promotion that makes her the enemy in the eyes of her friends, and tears her apart.

Will Pullen, who was frighteningly believable as the bully in Punk Rock,  is spectacular once again as Jason, switching back and forth between the eager innocent of 2000 and the deflated loser of 2008.

Khris Davis, who made an impressive New York stage debut in an intense performance as the first black boxing champ in The Royale, here appropriately scales it back as Chris, a bright young man saving up money to go to college, trying to escape what everybody else accepts as predestined.

James Colby as Stan gives a performance that grows in power, and winds up central to Sweat’s ending. It’s an ending that may or may not stand as a metaphor for what’s happening in America, but is guaranteed to make you cry.

Sweat
Studio 54

Production Staff
Theatre Owned / Operated by Roundabout Theatre Company (Todd Haimes: Artistic Director/CEO; Julia C. Levy: Executive Director; Sydney Beers: General Manager; Steve Dow: Chief Administrative Officer)
Produced by Stuart Thompson and Louise Gund
Co-commissioned by Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Arena Stage (Molly Smith, Artistic Director; Edgar Dobie, Executive Director); Produced off-Broadway by The Public Theater (Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director; Patrick Willingham, Executive Director)
Written by Lynn Nottage; Original Music by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen
Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Scenic Design by John Lee Beatty; Costume Design by Jennifer Moeller; Lighting Design by Peter Kaczorowski; Sound Design by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen; Projection Design by Jeff Sugg
General Manager: Thompson Turner Productions; Company Manager: Daniel Hoyos
Production Manager: Aurora Productions; Production Stage Manager: Donald Fried
Press Representative: Boneau / Bryan-Brown; Advertising: SPOTCo, Inc.
Cast
Carlo Albán Broadway debut as Oscar; James Colby as Stan; Khris Davis Broadway debut as Chris; Johanna Day  as Tracey; John Earl Jelks as Brucie. Will Pullen Broadway debut as Jason; Lance Coadie Williams Broadway debut as Evan; Michelle Wilson as Cynthia; Alison Wright Broadway debut as Jessie
Understudies: Benton Greene (Brucie, Chris, Evan), Hunter Hoffman (Jason), Steve Key (Stan), Deirdre Madigan (Jessie, Tracey), Lisa Renee Pitts (Cynthia) and Reza Salazar (Oscar)

Running time: 2 hours and 25 minutes.

Tickets: $59 to $149

Poll: Best Broadway Show Adapted From A Movie?

What is the best Broadway show adapted from a movie? Choose from the two dozen below, listed alphabetically, or add one that’s not on the list.

It wasn’t until 1970 that a Broadway show based on a movie won the Tony for best musical. Fittingly, the musical was Applause, inspired by All About Eve, a movie about the theater. Now every major Hollywood studio has a theatrical division, looking to create shows for Broadway, and every Broadway season includes a number of musicals that are based on movies. Next month alone, four new shows will open on Broadway based on original  movies (whose movie posters are picured above.) Add  to these the seven screen-to-stage adaptations already currently on Broadway.

Miss Saigon: Review, pics

The first Broadway revival of Miss Saigon is being marketed as the return of a classic. But, if the show has become an undeniable fan favorite, the production’s impressive visual spectacle, lively staging and crowd-pleasing vocal calisthenics cannot completely mask a script that leans heavily on emotional manipulation and one-dimensional storytelling.

Full review in DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Matthew Murphy or Michael Le Poer Trench to see it enlarged.

Broadway Originals of This Season’s Revivals

Below are scenes from the original productions of the 11 Broadway plays and musicals that are being revived, for the second, fifth, or 16th time, this season on Broadway.

Click on any photograph below to learn details of each show, organized more or less chronologically by the opening date of the original production.

For details on the revivals, check out Broadway 2016-2017 Preview Guide