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Carmen Jones: Pics and Review

When Carmen Jones opened on Broadway in 1943, one critic hailed it as “something more than a major theatrical event.” Seventy-five years later, the Classic Stage Company is presenting what it bills as the show’s first major New York revival since its Broadway debut. If it may no longer be “more than” a theatrical event, it’s still pretty damn exciting, thanks to a cast led by Anika Noni Rose and the show’s fascinating history.
Between Oklahoma! and Carousel, Oscar Hammerstein II took a break from Richard Rodgers to collaborate with Georges Bizet, the long-dead composer of Carmen, the 19th century French opera that features two of the most familiar tunes in all of Western music – Habanera and the Toreador Song. Hammerstein kept intact both the opera’s music and its spicy story of a tragic love triangle in which a fiery seductress brings down a naïve soldier. But he changed the locale from Spain to the American South during World War II, and turned the Spaniards and Romani into African-Americans.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged.
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Log Cabin: Pics and Review

Near the beginning of Log Cabin, four old LGBT friends are so struck by their sudden societal acceptance that one of them jokes “It’s here, the gay takeover we’ve been plotting all this time.” But, as we soon realize in Jordan Harrison’s thought-provoking new play, there are some downsides to their entry into the mainstream.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

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

Long Day’s Journey Into Night at BAM with Jeremy Irons: Review, pics

By the end of the Broadway revival of Long Days Journey Into Night two years ago, when Jessica Lange as mother Mary Tyrone rejoins her family, she is an ethereal ghost, her mind and body numbed by the morphine to which she is addicted. Now, at the same moment on stage in Brooklyn, Lesley Manville’s Mary practically does a jig. Hers is one of the unusually physical performances in the Bristol Old Vic production of Long Day’s Journey into Night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this month. Eugene O’Neill’s domestic dance feels like a literal dance at times in this version directed by Sir Richard Eyre in a cast led by Jeremy Irons. The four members of the Tyrone family, stand-ins for O’Neill’s own, jostle each other violently; pounce and push, hug and jab; raise their arms in the air in drunken triumph; stretch their bodies oddly, as if the play’s long running time has caused a few cricks…

The distinctive touches of the production, some at variance with the playwright’s conception, don’t wind up seriously detracting from what most matters about Long Day’s Journey into Night. In the Bristol Old Vic’s version as in every other I’ve seen, the play is a powerful and insightful tragedy…

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Richard Termine to see it enlarged.

Dance Nation: Review and Pics

Dance Nation is a surprise, and a shock, and a delight.  Although the characters are a team of 13-year-old competitive dancers from Liverpool, Ohio aiming to win the Boogie Down Grand Prix in Tampa Bay, Clare Barron’s play is not really about dancing. It is a funny, sharp and very blunt look at adolescent girls – portrayed by a terrific cast made up of actors as old as 60.

Although there are a couple of dance numbers, director and choreographer Lee Sunday Evans is not aspiring to be a next-generation Michael Bennett. Dance Nation is less reminiscent of Bennett’s musical A Chorus Line than of Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves, a play about a soccer team of teenage girls, and Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation, a play about an adult acting class. As in those plays, the actual activity is only the frame for sometimes random-seeming scenes whose purpose is to get to know the characters. Dance Nation is at its most entertaining and revealing in between the actual dancing.

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged

 

The Iceman Cometh with Denzel Washington: Review, pics

Yes, Denzel Washington is the reason audiences are drawn to the fifth Broadway production of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, just as the hopeless drunks who inhabit Harry Hope’s saloon are drawn to Hickey, the character Washington is portraying. Hickey is a happy-go-lucky traveling salesman who arrives every year on Harry’s birthday to buy them all drinks and lift their spirits.

Hickey disappoints the barflies this year; he’s stopped drinking, and is on a mission to turn them all sober and make them face their delusions.

But, in this production directed by George C. Wolfe…the barflies themselves do not disappoint.  A strong ensemble cast of 19, mostly veteran actors with familiar faces (some with familiar names), persuasively play a dive full of colorful characters..

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Julieta Cervantes to see it enlarged

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway: Review, pics

Click on any photograph by Manuel Harlan or Matthew Murphy to see it enlarged and read the captions.

What if Harry Potter hadn’t existed until now? What if Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the five and a half hour play now on Broadway about two generations of Potters and their friends and enemies, was the first in the franchise — not preceded by J.K. Rowling’s seven novels published between 1997 and 2007 that so far have sold some half a billion copies, nor the eight film adaptations between 2001 and 2011 that have so far grossed $7.7 billion? …Surely, there are some Potter novitiates who would be confused if not outright perturbed by a play that doesn’t pretend it stands alone….But whatever the extent of your Potter training, prepare to be dazzled.  The special effects are awe-inspiring…The illusions are just one part of the extraordinary stagecraft.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, Review and Pics

The real Donna Summer

Summer features 23 of Donna Summer’s songs, including such dance hits as “Hot Stuff” and “Last Dance,” that a talented cast performs in glitzy disco drag. That may be all some fans need from this thin Broadway musical that purports to tell the life story of the singer born LaDonna Adrian Gaines, who had a wildly successful career from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s.

“With her doe eyes, cascade of hair and sinuous dance moves, Ms. Summer became the queen of disco,” an obituary writer summed up Summer when she died six years ago from cancer at the age of 63.

It’s probably inaccurate to say that most theatergoers would be disappointed by Summer: The Donna Summer Musical – because few would expect much in the first place from yet another commercial bio drama jukebox musical.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

Carousel: Review and pics

 

The new “Carousel” has the most glorious singing on Broadway, as well as thrilling choreography and picturesque sets and costumes that seem lifted from great American paintings by Thomas Eakins and Edward Hopper. It also has a surprisingly dark story whose last half hour has aged so poorly it offers a bizarre mix of the ugly and the precious.
Director Jack O’Brien, though he has made some superficial changes to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved 1945 musical, hasn’t solved its dated attitude toward domestic abuse, nor does he take the corn out of the scenes set in Heaven; if anything, he makes more corn, inserting a prologue of angels gamboling in stage smoke, and expanding the role of the Starkeeper, the celestial counselor. But in this fifth Broadway revival, the director does bring us opera star Renee Fleming as Nettie Fowler singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (which she sang at Barack Obama’s inaugural concert) and “June Is Busting Out All Over” – which would be enough right there in my book to make up for any flaws in the show…

Full review at DC Theatre Scene.

Click on any photograph by Julia Cervantes to see it enlarged.

King Lear at BAM: Review and pics

“King Lear” begins with a foolish ruler swayed by flattery, and ends with what Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Greg Doran calls “a strange, profound unease.” Shakespeare’s tragedy is, in other words, as relevant as ever. And Doran’s often visually arresting if rarely shattering production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater, which stars Antony Sher as Lear, is as good as any to remind us of the Bard’s insights into stormy times, and the self-delusions of the powerful.

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

Click any photograph by Richard Termine to see it enlarged

 

Three Tall Women: Review and Pics

“I was tall and I was strong,” recalls the oldest woman in Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, and you believe it, because it is Glenda Jackson, who commands even as she winces in pain or cries in embarrassment or drifts into sad memories.
Jackson hasn’t been on a Broadway stage since 1988; she took a long detour from acting to become a member of the British Parliament . Three Tall Women has never been on a Broadway stage before. The 1994 Off-Broadway production of the play restored Albee’s reputation after 20 years of critical drubbing, winning him his third Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Jackson makes clear how much we’ve missed out by her absence from acting. But this is just one of the many triumphs of this exquisite Broadway premiere directed by Joe Mantello and co-starring Laurie Metcalf and Alison Pill. It is hard to imagine a better production of Albee’s humorous, caustic, secretly compassionate look at a life – and a death. It feels a fitting homage to the playwright, who died in 2016.

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Brigitte Lacombe to see it enlarged.