Frozen Cast. Sound Tonys Restored. Rebecca Saga Returns…in Court. Week in NY Theater

The Broadway season is not over until the end of this week, but the awards season has already begun.

The Week in Theater Awards

Sound design Tony categories reinstated for next year

 

Among her many other accomplishments, Lee founded the National Asian Artists Project, which does fully staged New York productions of classic musicals like Carousel, Oliver!, and Hello, Dolly!, cast mainly with Asian actors.

2017 Outer Critics Circle Nominations – Anastasia, Hello, Dolly; The Band’s Visit lead

2017 Drama League Nominations

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

(l-r): Katrina Lenk as ‘Manke,’ Adina Verson as ‘Rivkele’ in INDECENT,

Indecent

There are many reasons to find deep satisfaction in the arrival on Broadway of the play “Indecent,” a fascinating tale wondrously staged about a century-old Jewish drama that featured a scandalizing kiss between two women, whose Broadway cast was prosecuted for obscenity.
It marks the long-delayed Broadway debut of Paula Vogel, who at 65 is one of the theatre community’s most admired playwrights…”Indecent” is also something of a homecoming and even vindication for “God of Vengeance”…”Indecent” is further proof that a play can explore a range of frighteningly relevant issues – threats to the arts and an entire culture, anti-immigrant bigotry, homophobia, even genocide – and do so in a production that is not only enlightening, and moving, but entertaining.

Laura Linney as Regina (left) and Cynthia Nixon as Birdie (right)

The Little Foxes

Now we call it racism, sexism and domestic abuse, but it’s just everyday life in “The Little Foxes,” Lillian Hellman’s 1939 play about a rapacious Southern family, which is being given an engrossing Broadway revival with a superb cast at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater.

The production, finely directed by Daniel Sullivan, is getting the most attention because of a gimmick, but it’s a smart, appealing gimmick: Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon take turns portraying either Regina or Birdie at alternate performances.

I saw it with Laura Linney as Regina and Cynthia Nixon as Birdie, which was the cast on opening night, and thus how the two will be considered by the Tony nominating committee – Linney for best actress in a leading role, Nixon in a supporting role. And they surely will be nominated

Anastasia

In dramatizing the legend surrounding the youngest daughter of the last Czar, the show has created a new villain, a Soviet official named Gleb….Anastasia winds up promoting nostalgia for the last reign of the Romanovs, those elegantly attired autocrats who sponsored pogroms against the Jews and violently suppressed popular Russian calls for democracy.
..the real strength of this production – its beautiful design and its wonderful cast…Given the pleasures in this escapist fare largely geared to children, few parents will probably care that we have to endure lines like “Anya survived for a reason: to heal what happened or Russia will be a wound that never heals.”

Andy Karl

Groundhog Day

Andy Karl gives an inventive, energetic and wholly winning performance that is the main reason to see this musical adaptation of the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray.

Ryan Spahn as Daniel and Matthew Montelong as Mitchell in Daniel’s Husband

Daniel’s Husband

Given Mitchell’s explicit arguments against gay marriage in the first half of the play, the turn of events becomes an implicit refutation of Mitchell’s beliefs, a one-sided argument for the necessity of gay people getting married. “Daniel’s Husband” becomes an odd and simplistic cautionary tale. Only the acting under Joe Brancato’s direction saves us from utter authorial strong-arming

Gabriel Ebert and Harvey Fierstein

Gently Down the Stream

Playwright Martin Sherman seems to believe that same-sex marriage is important, and that there is some resistance to it from within the gay community that he finds regrettable. But Sherman’s approach is less an argument than a simple explanation for attitudes like those of Beau, portrayed by Harvey Fierstein.

The Week in New York Theater News

Rebecca logo

“Rebecca” will never open on Broadway, according to the  attorney for its producers admits during the trial against the show’s former publicist. The producers have lost the rights to it.

Some history on The Rebecca Saga:

Rebecca Producer: I was duped, I was raped

The Weirdness of Rebecca

The (would-be) stars of Rebecca speak out

 

 

“Orange is the New Barack” Capitol Steps’ new political vaudeville, June 18th only at Symphony Space

For the Helen Hayes Theater, their Broadway house, Second Stage Theater is commissioning new works by Lynn Nottage, Paula Vogel, Will eno, Lisa KRon, Robbie Baitz, and Young Jean Lee.

Disney has cast Caissie Levy  as Elsa, Patti Murin as Anna, Greg Hildreth as Olaf in the stage musical “Frozen” — which is coming to Broadway an Aug-Oct run at the Denver Center

If I Forget, Steven Levenson’s Jewish family drama, to be taped by BroadwayHD for on-demand viewing the Fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stage Injuries. New Broadway Every Day. Carousel Returns. Week in NY Theater

Over the next ten days, nine shows will open on Broadway – four new musicals (plus one musical revival), two new plays (plus two play revivals.)

How to Get Discount Tickets to Broadway’s Newest Shows 

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

War Paint

In “War Paint,” Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole are sharing a Broadway stage for the first time in their careers, portraying rival cosmetic industry pioneers Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden. 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. No, they can’t make it great.

Daniel Oreskes, Michael Aronov, and Anthony Azizi (foreground) with Daniel Jenkins and Jeb Kreager (background).

Oslo

Last year, “Oslo,” a fascinating if talky play about the surprising story behind the first peace accord between the Israelis and Palestinians, ran for a couple of months Off-Broadway. Now it is on Broadway — it’s moved  from the Mitzi Newhouse in the street level of Lincoln Center theater one flight up to the larger Vivian Beaumont on the plaza level, with cast and creative team intact…and a top ticket price 50 percent higher.

The Week in New York Theater News

Andy Karl is injured three days before the opening of Groundhog Day in which he is starring. He will perform during the opening night, according to the producers. Karl’s injury is the latest in a long line of Broadway injuries.

Andy Karl at Groundhog Day curtain call Friday night after his injury forced a halting of the show. he returned to finish it with a cane.

History of Infamous Broadway Injuries

Sweat receives Pulitzer Prize in Drama.


Finalists were Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music and The Wolves by Sarah DeLapp

The New Yorker’s Hilton Als won the Pulitzer in criticism, just the second theater critic to do so.

The original Broadway cast recording of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” with Joshua Groban to be released by Reprise Records  May 19.

In Transit, Broadway’s first cappella musical, closed on Sunday, after 181 performances

On Oslo’s opening night on Broadway, they announced that the show written by J.T. Rogers will be turned into a film by Marc Platt, producer of LaLa Land (and Ben Platt‘s Pop) and directed (as is the play) by Bartlett Sher

Spamilton is moving June 2 to 47th Theater,down the street from Hamilton, the musical it spoofs. Versions exist in Chicago and will soon in L.A.

Alex Brightman, Broadway’s original Dewey Finn in School of Rock, takes back the role from April 14 to April 30 (while Eric Petersen is on vacation.)

CapsLockTheatre’s #Pussypersists, “111 artists,48 monologues about the body” Access Theater April 20-23

A middle school puts on Legally Blonde, The Musical in this Saturday Night Live spoof

Their actual names:
Andy Blankenbuehler, director and choreographer of Bandstand
Okieriete Onaodowan, actor who originated Mulligan/Madison in Hamilton, soon in The Great Comet
Adam Chanler-Berat, male lead in Amelie
Phillipa Soo, star of Amelie
Moritz von Stuelpnagel, director of Present Laughter
John Wyszniewski, theater publicist

RIP Linda Hopkins, 92, show-stopping Tony-winning singer, actress and writer. Black & Blue; Me & Bessie

Theater Award Season Begins. The Week in NY Theater

Lynn Nottage and Paula Vogel, both making their Broadway playwriting debuts this season, with “Sweat” and “Indecent” respectively, are both former winners of the Pulitzer Prize in Drama (“Ruined”  in 2009 and “How I Learned to Drive” in 1998.) Nottage won again.

The Pulitzer Prize announcement moves us even further into a theater awards season that began last week with the announcement of nominations for Lucille Lortel Awards for Off-Broadway. Those awards will be presented May 7.

Other New York theater awards coming soon:
Outer Critics Circle – Nominations announced April 25; awards ceremony May 25
Drama Desk – Nominations announced April 27; awards June 4
Obie Awards  – May 22
Tony Awards – Nominations announced May 2; awards June 11

(Here’s my guide to the major New York theater awards from 2016. Expect the 2017 guide soon.)

Meanwhile, this past week, there were the UK’s Olivier Awards (list of winners)

American winners of 2017 Olivier Awards: Andy Karl (best actor in a musical for Groundhog Day) and Amber Riley (best actress in a musical for Dreamgirls.) Groundhog Day, which won best musical, is opening on Broadway April 17.

 

Scene from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theater in London.

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” won nine Olivier Awards, breaking the records set by Matilda and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, both of which then went on to Tony-winning runs on Broadway – where Harry Potter is expected to land in the Spring of 2018.

And ATCA, the American Theatre Critics Association, announced two awards for plays produced anywhere in the U.S. except NYC, which this year meant mostly Chicago. Michael Cristofer’s “Man in the Ring,” which premiered at the Court Theatre in Chicag,o won the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award and $25,000. Tracy Letts’ “Mary Page Marlowe” and David Rabe’s “Visiting Edna,” both of which premiered at Steppenwolf in Chicago, were awarded $7,500 and given citations. (Michael Cristofer and Tracy Letts are previous winners of the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, incidentally, Cristofer for The Shadow Box in 1977, Letts for August: Osage County in 2008.)

Nate Eppler’s “The Ice Treatment” won the 2017 M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an emerging playwright. “The Ice Treatment” premiered in Nashville.

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

Cobie Smulders and Kevin Kline

Present Laughter

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

Amelie

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…. The musicalized vignettes are often presented like children’s theater run amok.

War Paint roundup

Come From Away – second look

I consider my own and other reactions to this hit “9/11 musical,”  which have as much to do with what’s happening in the world as on stage.

The Week in New York Theater News

Ayad Akhtar

American Academy of Arts and Letters announced literature awards to 19 writers, including  playwrights Lynn Nottage, Ayad Akhtar (both of whom have previously won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama), and Dominique Morisseau. Nottage’s Award of Merit Medal comes with a cash prize of $25,000. The others get $10,000 apiece.

 

James Monroe Iglehart begin performances as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in “Hamilton” on April 14, the same day Brian d’Arcy James begins as King George.

Check out some of the other new cast members in Hamilton

Then She Fell: Rachel I. Berman (as Alice)

Third Rail Projects, the company heralded for its immersive theater Then She Fell (pictured above) and The Grand Paradise, will present Ghost Light, at The Claire Tow Theater at Lincoln Center, opening June 19. Ghost Light will be “a performance about performance that invites audiences to follow performers into the unseen corners of the Claire Tow Theater and through a series of real and dreamlike landscapes beyond the footlights, the glitter and the greasepaint.”

“Significant Other” is now closing April 23, after just 79 performances.

 

 

“Building the Wall,” fiery anti-Trump play by Robert Schenkkan  (All The Way,Hacksaw Ridge,), performs at New World Stages May 12-July 19. Schenkkan, who won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Kentucky Cycle” in 1992, told the Times about his new play:

“I wrote this in a white-hot fury. We no longer live in a world that is business as usual
— Trump has made that very clear —and if theater is going to remain relevant,
we must become faster to respond. We cannot hope to be useful if we can’t respond until 18 months after the fact. It is not a crazy or extreme fantasy. It’s very solidly grounded in current American law, and Trump’s rhetoric, and his most recent executive orders.”

Cooling down – how actors unwind  after intense performances

 

RIP Gary Austin, 75, founder of the influential The Groundlings improv group

“My aim is to be totally present in the moment, and when I’m totally present in the moment I can do no wrong,”

RIP Tim Pigott-Smith, 70, who made a splash on Broadway as the title character in King Charles III

April is the Foolest Month. Signature revives Edward Albee, Stephen Adly Giurgis. Week in New York Theater

One might argue that, given the new administration in Washington, every day is April Fool’s Day, but the theater community treats April 1st with particular glee..

“COME FROM AWAY’s Gander Township Rejects Application To Build Trump Hotel and Casino” (Broadway World)

“Script for Lost Beckett Sitcom Pilot Uncovered” (American Theatre)

“The Tony Awards to Add Best Performance by a Leading Animal Category” (TheaterMania)

George Takei announces he’s running for Congress against House Intelligence Chairman Davin Nunes (The Daily Buzz.) I wish this one had been true.

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

The Play That Goes Wrong

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.

The Week in New York Theater Quizzes and Polls

Favorite Feud?

Favorite Broadway Opening in April?

New York Theater Quiz for MarchNew York Theater Quiz March 2017

The Week in New York Theater News

Signature Theater’s 2017-2018 season will include a special tribute to Edward Albee, who died in 2016,
J Stephen Adly Guirgis
Jesus Hopped the “A” Train October 3-November 2, 2017, directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson
Our Lady of 121st Street, May 1-June 10, 2018, directed by Anne Kauffman.
A new play by Guirgis, to be announced, will be presented during the 2018-19 season.

Suzan-Lori Parks
The Red Letter Plays:
F**king A, August 22-October 1, 2017, directed by Jo Bonney
In the Blood, August 29-October 8, 2017, durected by Sarah Benson.

Edward Albee
At Home at the Zoo: Homelife & The Zoo Story, January 30-March 11, 2018, directed by Lila Neugebauer.

Dominique Morisseau’
Paradise Blue, April 24-June 3, 2018, directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson.

Significant Other to play final performance July 2, four months after opening.

(In an article in Crain’s, Philip Boroff suggests that “Significant Other,” and “Sweat” both suffered because critic Charles Isherwood, who championed them Off-Broadway, lost his job at the Times, and Ben Brantley’s reviews of them on Broadway were not as positive.)

Jane Krakowski and Christopher Jackson will announce The Tony Awards nominations Tuesday morning, May 2, from New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

 

The Fred and Adele Astaire Awards have been rebranded to celebrate the legacy of Broadway legend Chita Rivera. The inaugural Chita Rivera Awards for Dance and Choreography, presented by American Dance Machine for the 21st Century, will be given September 11 at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Nominations will be announced May 1 at the Friar’s Club.

(An article from 2010 suggests why they would change the name of the awards.)

Plays As Literature Twitter chat 

To me, what makes a play literature is that you can read it. And there are scripts even for Beckett’s 40-second plays

 

Ian Hylands I live by the The Royal Shakespeare Company ’s firstst law:“Treat new plays like they are Shakespeare, and  Shakespeare like it’s a new play”

Rush recap:

$30 Dolls House Part 2 (only during previews)
$32 Six Degrees of Separation
$35 Bandstand
Get to box offices when they open

 

Broadway’s April Avalanche. Critics’ Musical Chairs. Week in NY Theater

Right before the busiest month in New York theater – 14 shows opening on Broadway alone in April, exactly one third of all the shows for the entire season – theater critics are getting new assignments (a polite way of putting it.) Jesse Green, the current critic at New York Magazine, has been named “co-chief theater critic” of the New York Times: Press releaseQ and A with Green in American Theatre

This means of course an opening for a critic at New York Magazine, although Green doesn’t start his new gig until May 1.

Charles Isherwood

Meanwhile, Charles Isherwood, who was until recently the second string critic at the Times, will become a “contributing critic” at a new online publication, Broadway News, created by the e-mail newsletter Broadway Briefing. Details in Deadline

 

Week in New York Theater Reviews

Miss Saigon

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.

How to Transcend A Happy Marriage

In Sarah Ruhl’s new play,  two middle-aged married couples, long-time friends, find themselves fascinated with a young woman nicknamed Pip ( Lena Hall, Tony winner for Hedwig and the Angry Inch) who lives and loves with two men, in what they call a polyamorous relationship, or a throuple, or a triad. The two couples decide to invite the throuple to a New Year’s Eve party.

“And our lives would change forever,” George (short for Georgia), portrayed by Marisa Tomei, says to the theatergoers sitting politely at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater.

It’s not actually clear that their lives do change forever. But ours certainly don’t.

Latin History for Morons

For “Latin History for Morons,” John Leguizamo has come up with a sixth solo show that will be in many ways familiar to his fans , with its mix of in-your-face jokes, spot-on mimicry, candid memoir, energetic dance breaks. But it is also a timely cultural and political critique, suggesting what could become a new direction for the talented performer.

Week in New York Theater News

Once on This Island, a 1990 musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, is scheduled to return to Broadway, opening on December 3, 2017.
The show focuses on “a young dreamer named Ti Moune. After a massive storm rages through her village, a ray of hope appears through a young man from the wealthy side of the island. An unexpected romance blossoms. But when their different cultures threaten to keep them apart, Ti Moune—guided by the island gods—sets out on a journey to stay beside the man who has captured her heart.”
Michael Arden (Spring Awakening) will direct. The show has no theater or cast yet. They are
“sailing to Haiti to find Broadway lead”

Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children, a London hit about two retired nuclear scientists living in a cottage after a nuclear disaster, opens on MTC’s Broadway theater, the Samuel Friedman, on December 14.

Janeane Garofalo will star as Lee in her Broadway debut; Lili Taylor  as Bessie and Celia Weston  as Ruth in Marvin’s Room, at Roundabout’s American Airlines Theater June 8 – August 27, 2017

  1. How to Hamlet, or Hamletting Hamlet a “theatrical conjuring” by Theater Reconstruction Ensemble at HERE Mar 30 – Apr 14

2. Hamlet: A Version by Russian dissident Boris Akunin set in police state Ap 21-May 7 Theatre St Clements https://www.akuninhamlet.com/

A different perspective on The Glass Menagerie — and an overview of disability on stage:

NEA grants to NYC cultural nonprofits: $233 million from 2000 to 2016.
Nearly $43 million was granted to the media arts, $32 million for musical theater,
$31 million for dance and $21 million for music.
An additional $21 million was granted specifically for arts education

Happy Birthday Sondheim and Lloyd Webber: #BroadwayPersists. Trump vs. the Arts. Week in New York Theater

 


Today Stephen Sondheim turns 87 and Andrew Lloyd Webber turns 69. Each has more than one show currently running on New York stages — Sondheim: Sunday in the Park with George, and Sweeney Todd; Lloyd Webber: Cats, Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock, and Sunset Boulevard. Four days ago, John Kander celebrated his 90th birthday.

All three have helped inspire a new generation of theater makers.

In other words, theater persists, in the face of what many would characterize as nothing less than an attack on culture.

New York theatergoers looked to the government this past week for support of the arts – the government of Canada, when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended “Come From Away” on Broadway, accompanied by some 600 friends and allies, mostly Canadian, but also a number of UN ambassadors, and Ivanka Trump.

Her father was invited as well, but according to an article in the Washington Post, he said “Absolutely not,” and flew to Nashville instead to visit the gravesite of Andrew Jackson.

That same day, the Ides of March, came news of Trump’s budget plan, which calls for “the elimination of of four independent cultural agencies” – the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. (See 4-minute “Donald The Musical” below.)

 

Julie Andrews and daughter Emma Walton Hamilton: Rescue the arts from the budget chopping block

Without art, there is no empathy. Without empathy, there is no justice.~Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, speaking at the annual Hanks Lecture.

15 Great Books About The Theater

Julie Haydon as Laura in The Glass Menagerie, opened March 31, 1945. Its eighth Broadway production opened March 9, 2017.

Broadway Originals of this Season’s Revivals

Week in New York Theater Reviews

The Price

Danny DeVito, making his Broadway debut, gets the best deal out of The Price. Arthur Miller is not a playwright known for comically colorful characters, yet here’s DeVito as Gregory Solomon, a Jewish acrobat turned 89-year-old used furniture dealer who “smoked all my life, I drinked, and I loved every woman who would let me.”

DeVito’s character is the most enjoyable but not a central one in Miller’s sober family drama, now getting its fifth production on Broadway, in a cast that also includes Mark Ruffalo, Jessica Hecht and Tony Shalhoub. If none are at their absolute best here, that only means that all of them at one time or another have given performances that have left me in awe.

 

Week in New York Theater News

The Fantasticks is set to close June 4 after 4390 performances at Jerry Orbach Theater. (Previously it ran 17,162 at Sullivan St Playhouse, opening in 1960)

 

The New Jersey high school that put on “Ragtime” after a controversy over the N-word, wins the “Courage in Theatre” Award from Music Theatre International.

My look at the controversy: The N-Word on Stage

Joshua Harmon, Lynn Nottage, Paula Vogel, Lucas Hnath, and JT Rogers. (Photo by Chad Griffith)

 

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The First Theatrical Landmark of the Trump Era
Lynn Nottage’s play “Sweat” “opened at the Public Theatre last November, five days before the Presidential election, which gave the country a new fixation: the Rust Belt working class. Who were these people who had cast their lot with Donald Trump? Why had the media—and the Democrats—largely ignored their troubles? Nottage was an unlikely teller of the story: an Ivy League-educated black woman from Brooklyn. “One of the mantras I heard the steelworkers repeat over and over again was ‘We invested so many years in this factory, and they don’t see us. We’re invisible,’ ” Nottage said. “I think it profoundly hurt their feelings.”
…“Sweat” ’s transfer to Studio 54—it is Nottage’s Broadway début—may make it the first theatrical landmark of the Trump era: a tough yet empathetic portrait of the America that came undone. “Most folks think it’s the guilt or rage that destroys us,” one character says. “But I know from experience that it’s shame that eats us away until we disappear.” Nottage wasn’t prescient—she was as shocked as anyone by the election result. But what wasn’t shocking “was the extent of the pain,” she told me. “These were people who felt helpless, who felt like the American dream that they had so deeply invested in had been suddenly ripped away. I was sitting with these white men, and I thought, You sound like people of color in America.”

 

 

RIP Derek Walcott, 87, Nobel Laureate, poet, and playwright of more than 20 plays, including “Dream on Monkey Mountain, “which won an Obie; and “The Capeman,”  a collaboration with Paul Simon on Broadway. He founded Boston Playwrights’ Theatre as a showcase for new plays. ObituaryMore on his playwriting

Behold The Ides of March. Week in New York Theater

It’s never a great day for Julius Caesar, thanks to Shakespeare, but March 15th is looking ok on Broadway, with the theatrically named blizzard Stella turning out to be less dramatic than expected (no Broadway shows closed yesterday nor will today);   Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visiting the Canadian-bred Broadway musical, Come From Away; the fifth Broadway “Hello, Dolly” having its first preview starring the 15th Broadway Dolly Levi Gallagher, Bette Midler, And the recent announcement that the original king will return to Hamilton.

Below, performance artist and composer Laurie Anderson becomes a Broadway critic –and not a kind one — while one of the nation’s most famous theater critics becomes a TV star.

Week in New York Theater Reviews

Come from Away

“Come From Away” tells the story of the 9,000 residents of Gander, Newfoundland who took care of some 7,000 passengers and crew of 38 airplanes that were forced to land at the local airport because of the September 11, 2001 attacks…. focuses on the kindness of strangers, and how they ease the fear and inconvenience of the “plane people,” some 1,500 miles away from any real danger….This is not really a 9/11 musical, then…The question thus arises: Are we so battered by the trauma of actual events that the only stage depictions we welcome about them are feel-good entertainment? The answer seems to be yes,  judging by the enthusiastic embrace of this musical.  And Come From Away is certainly feel-good – also rhythmic, well staged, often funny.

The Glass Menagerie

Sam Gold, the innovative director who won a Tony for Fun Home, has cast Sally Field in a new Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie that doesn’t include a glass menagerie! And that’s among the least intrusive of Gold’s directorial choices, which theatergoers weaned on Williams must struggle to reconcile with the playwright’s beloved text….Sally Field is an angry, bitter and no-nonsense Amanda.

The Outer Space

Lipton narrates the funny, pointed, and strange story of the unnamed married couple who decide they’ve had it with Earth; they buy an old jalopy of a rocket ship and live in a space colony that orbits the planet Mercury, where 3,100 people live, work and shop in some 450 vessels, including a “one-dollar ship.” Half science fiction, half Moth-like shaggy dog tale involving a midlife crisis, half social satire, half a revue of unrelated songs in a mix of genres, “The Outer Space” doesn’t quite add up to a musical. But it does count as an almost unique entertainment..

Theater Book Review:

The Great Comet: The Journey of A New Musical To Broadway

Great Comet Giveaway Contest

Week in New York Theater News

 

The first theater critic to become a TV star? (surely the first who’s 8)
Iain Armitage, who became one of the best known theater critics in the country when he began at age 5 to post his reviews on YouTube, will star in a TV series that’s a prequel to the Big Bang Theory, entitled “Young Sheldon.”

Eugene O’Neill’s 6-hour tragedy comes to ‪Target Margin Theater in Brooklyn

 

 

It’s boom time for older actors but how realistic are their roles?

 

40 under 40 connected to Broadway

March Madness. Week in New York Theater

March is a busy month for theater, as usual, but that’s not the only way madness seems to have taken hold.

Luckily, there is help for stressed out theater people.

Friedman Center logo

Opening today: The Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts

The center is sponsored by The Actors Fund, which is also about to start  a support group for theater people to weather these stressful times. It begins March 10.

Bryan Doerries, the founder of Theater of War, has been named New York City’s Public Artist in Residence, (PAIR.) As I have written in the past, Theater of War uses the dramas of Ancient Greek and other classic tragedies to help with the healing process. Initially, this was with military veterans, but it has spread.

The first PAIR event will be at Greene Space on March 20. It will be a reading of Sophocles’s Ajax and Philoctetes, featuring Paul Giamatti, Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, and Reg E. Cathey.
The event will be livestreamed on the website for the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which is funding PAIR through a $1,365 million grant.
Other scheduled community events:
Brooklyn Public Library’s Crown Heights branch (April 6)
the Main Auditorium at Susan Wagner High School, Staten Island (April 14)
Rockaway Theatre Company in Rockaway, Queens (April 17)
The Pregones + Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in the Bronx (May 6).

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

I reviewed the following plays last week. They are ranked in order of my preference, my favorite first, with links to the full review and production photographs.


Sweeney Todd

Tooting Arts Club’s exceptionally entertaining production of Sweeney Todd, Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s glorious murderous musical, began in 2014 in Harrington’s, one of London’s oldest working pie shops. An impressively detailed replica of Harrington’s has now set up shop Off-Broadway at the Barrow Street Theater, including the pies…
(Sweeney Todd has been extended at Barrow Street Theatre through December 31.)


Significant Other

In “Significant Other,” Jordan is a gay man who has three best friends he met in college, all women, each of whom in the course of Joshua Harmon’s play finds a mate and holds a fancy wedding, which Jordan attends like a loyal soldier going into enemy territory. Unsuccessful himself at finding his significant other, Jordan feels more and more cut off, and fearful of a life of loneliness. “Your wedding is my funeral,” Jordan says to the last and best of his friends, Laura.

If the basic plot were the sum total of “Significant Other,” it would be easier to dismiss as thin, repetitive and self-pitying. But what “Significant Other” has going for it is significant, especially some very funny moments and a supremely winning cast, all but one of them holdovers from the play’s Off-Broadway run last summer.

If I Forget

In “If I Forget,” a well-acted, often funny and always engaging Jewish family drama by Steven Levenson (the book-writer for Dear Evan Hansen) we travel back to an era that no longer exists except in memory, although it is a mere 15 years ago…the concerns of Levenson’s play feel both up-to-the-minute and age-old, as Michael (Jeremy Shamos) and his two sisters Holly (Kate Walsh, from Private Practice) and Sharon (Maria Dizzia) argue politics and religion and identity….and what to do about Dad.


Wakey, Wakey

With gentle humor and a lack of fussiness, Michael Emerson manages to woo us through the deliberate vagueness, starts-and-stops, meta interruptions, of his monologue, even before we are completely certain why Guy is talking to us. There are hints from the get-go that he’s presiding over his own wake…It becomes irrefutably clear that Guy is dying only when Lisa (January LaVoy) arrives and her casual ministrations establish her as his caretaker


All The Fine Boys

If “All The Fine Boys,” written and directed by Erica Schmidt, had just been the scenes between Emily and Adam, the play would have been a sweet, funny, awkward, well-observed coming-of-age tale. But the scenes between Jenny and Joe wind up as a combination Lifetime movie cautionary tale, and campy Grand Guignol horror movie, which features Abigail Breslin (Oscar nominee at age 10 for Little Miss Sunshine) being deflowered on a couch before our eyes while eating a slice of pizza – and it gets worse from there…

Rebecca Pidgeon and Chris Bauer

The Penitent

he Penitent, David Mamet’s latest play, is about the ethical dilemmas facing a psychiatrist whose patient has gone on a killing spree. At least that’s what it seems to be about, but audiences might well identify with the psychiatrist’s wife when she says to him: “You must be holding something back. Or else I’m stupid.”…Mamet has structured ‘The Penitent’ so that information is parceled out in stingy pieces. Some of this is surely for dramatic effect, particularly a revelation at the end that is undoubtedly meant to knock us out. But this approach winds up undercutting his thematic explorations…And that ending (which I won’t reveal) is not only implausible to the point of self-parody; it negates or at least clouds all the intellectual debate that’s gone before it.”

The Week in New York Theater News

My Fair Lady is returning to Broadway.   Produced by Lincoln Center, and directed by Bartlett Sher,  it will begin previews March 22, 2018 and open on April 19, 2018 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. No cast has been announced. This will be the fifth Broadway production of the musical based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion.” The first, in 1956, starred Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle (pictured.)

$41 rush tickets will still be offered to Sunday in the Park with George (It was supposed to end when show opened)

Miriam Colón a well-known movie actress who took roles opposite Brando and Pacino (most famously as his mother in Scarface) and many others, has died at age 80. She was the founder of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in 1967,  to bring free bilingual theater to venues throughout New York City. In 1993 she received an Obie Award for lifetime achievement in Off Broadway theater. In 2015 President Barack Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts.

Roberta Maxwell and Maryann Plunkett in Women of a Certain Age, Play Three of The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family

Richard Nelson’s trilogy The Gabriels will be livestreamed on BroadwayHD from the Public Theater

Olivier Awards – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child receives record 11 nominations

‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ Sets Nominations Record for U.K. Olivier Awards (Full List)

Ann Harada, Kelvin Moon Loh join George Takei in Classic Stage Company’s Pacific Overtures

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” is no more. Now the @nyneofuturists weekend show will be called “The Infinite Wrench”

Playwrights Horizons 2017-18 season

Theater Highlights at the Oscars. Week in New York Theater

It was a theater kind of movie night. (List of winners )

The best picture Oscar winner, Moonlight, was based on the play, Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, by Tarell Alvin McCraney (playwright of Head of Passes, the Brother/Sister Plays, etc.), who also won for adapted screenplay. Another playwright, Kenneth Lonergan (This is Our Youth), won in the original screenwriting category, for Manchester by the Sea. Pasek and Paul, the songwriting team behind Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway, won an Oscar as lyricists for the best song, from La La Land.. “This is dedicated to all the kids who sing in the rain,” Benj Pasek said, holding his trophy, “and all their moms who let them”
Viola Davis won an Oscar for her “supporting” role in Fences, a role she first played on Broadway. With her first Oscar, Davis last night became the first black actor to win an Oscar, Emmy and Tony – and the tenth performer in history to win both Tonys and Oscars for the same role.
The other best actress Oscar winner, Emma Stone, made her Broadway debut as Sally Bowles in Cabaret.
Lin-Manuel Miranda performed his Oscar-nominated song, “How Far I’ll Go,” from Moana.

And after that, back in his seat next to his mother, Miranda was accosted by Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel, who told him “It’s weird to see you in a theater without having to pay $10,000” – then told his mother “your son is an American treasure.”

Derek McLane, veteran designer of 36 Broadway shows, designed the much-praised Oscar set.

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Sara Bareilles, the composer of Waitress who will soon star in it, performed Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” during the In Memoriam.

Even the winner of the best foreign film, The Salesman, has a theater connection.It’s the story of a young Iranian couple who perform a classic American play, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.
And presenter Seth Rogen sang the Schuyler Sisters song from the musical Hamilton, explaining that it completes his bucket list.

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And, since it’s what everybody’s talking about here’s a minute-by-minute account of the best picture announcement goof up

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Take the February theater quiz

Week in New York Theater Reviews

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Kid Victory

There is one song by John Kander in Kid Victory that recalls the composer’s collaboration with Fred Ebb in both Cabaret and Chicago – “What’s the Point?” a jaunty, satiric tap-dance. It’s one of the few such moments in Kander and Pierce’s somber, often harrowing musical, now Off-Broadway, about the aftermath of a kidnapping….In Kid Victory, his second collaboration with playwright and lyricist Greg Pierce, a half century his junior, Kander employs his arsenal of blues and hymns, ballads and dirges to tell a story that might work without any music, but stays with you all the more because of it.

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Everybody

With “Everybody,” Branden Jacobs-Jenkins adapts “Everyman,” the 15th century morality play, for a modern secular New York audience. The idea here is inspired, and the world premiere production at the Signature can be inspiring…But both the playwright and director Lila Neugebauer seem hell-bent on deliberately “destabilizing” the story, making it less accessible….The playwright also gives his characters too much to say that is digressive, repetitious or overlong

Week in New York Theater News

Jake Gyllenhaal in Sunday in the Park with George

Jake Gyllenhaal in Sunday in the Park with George

Sunday in the Park with George opens in the newly rechristened 41st Broadway theater, the Hudson.

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Signers include theater artists Stephen Sondheim, David Henry Hwang, John Lithgow and (pictured) Patrick Stewart

A 24-Decade History of Popular Music

A 24-Decade History of Popular Music

A 24 Decade History of Popular Music by Taylor Mac and Matt Ray win the 2017 Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History and $100,000. Citation:

“A vast, immersive, subversive, audacious and outrageous theatre experience, Mac’s and Ray’s piece employs a variety of performance techniques to illuminate and explode our country’s history as seen through the lens of its popular music. This piece shows, in Mac’s words, how ‘in America, the oppressor is forgiven but the outsider is vilified.’”

August Wilson

August Wilson

Patti Hartigan, a former theater critic for the Boston Globe, has been signed to write the first major biography of August Wilson,

Fences had a good night at the Oscars last night, and his Jitney is currently on Broadway.

New York City Center’s Encores Off-Center will present staged concert revivals this summer of “Assassins” by Stephen Sondheim, “The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin” by Kirsten Childs and “Really Rosie” by Carole King and Maurice Sendak.

A commercial during the Oscars: Zachary Quinto reads from Orwell’s 1984:

Broadway Black. The Week in NY Theater

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Theater artist Anna Deavere Smith received the George Polk Career Award, one of the top awards in journalism.

“This was not a traditional choice for us, because she doesn’t fit neatly in the category of journalist. ” John Darnton, curator of the Polk Awards, told Deadline, but the awards committee “realized she’s first of all a reporter in the way she goes about researching her topic.”

Smith, a familiar face as a performer, has created seminal theater pieces as “Fires In The Mirror,” about the Crown Heights riots. Recent works include “Notes from the Field,” about the school-to-prison pipeline and “Let Me Down Easy,” about healthcare in America.

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Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan is the new Pierre in “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” taking over from Josh Groban on July 3, 2017. He portrayed the original Hercules Mulligan and President James Madison in the musical Hamilton.

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Speaking of presidents, Toby Blackwell portrayed Barack Obama in an obscure 2012 Off-Off Broadway play entitled “Obama in Naples.” Virtually all the U.S. presidents have been portrayed on a New York stage, as my photo essay on Presidents Day attests.

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The 115th Street branch of the New York Public Library is being renamed for Harry Belafonte, as the singer, actor, activist and Tony Award winner nears 90th birthday on March 1.

Week in NY Theater Reviews

Reed Birney and Nana Mensah

Man from Nebraska

There are three great reasons to see the New York stage debut of Man From Nebraska, without even knowing what it’s about: Its author Tracy Letts (August: Osage County), its director David Cromer (Our Town), a cast that features Reed Birney (The Humans.) These remain even when you learn it’s about a man’s mid-life crisis….We never get details explaining Ken’s spiritual crisis; there are no stimulating intellectual or theological debates. Nor do we get a resolution so much as just an ending…..If little is explained, this winds up not mattering as much as it might in the hands of lesser theater artists. These artists feel in full control.

(See below for news about Tracy Letts)

Matthew Broderick and Wallace Shawn in Shawn's Evening at the Talk House

Evening at the Talk House

“The theatre is gone, but there are new things now,” says Matthew Broderick in Wallace Shawn’s chilling comedy, which imagines a dystopian but familiar society where former theatre people have gone on to television, or to a day job, such as murderer. “My paycheck arrives with complete regularity,” says an ex wardrobe supervisor turned assassin.

…The wit and the horror of Shawn’s play is how, amid the kind of gossip, backbiting and nostalgic reminiscences standard from old troupers everywhere, the characters casually segue into conversations about “targeting” – killing people deemed undesirable.

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Sunset Boulevard

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

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

Week in NY Theater News

Arts Groups Draft Battle Plans as Trump Funding Cuts Loom

 

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“The MInutes,” a new play by Tracy Letts (August:Osage County) is planned for Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago before a Broadway set to open March 2018. Here is a description of it:

“A town’s proud history, the legend of a local hero,
the coveted privilege of reserved parking:
nothing is sacred during the town council meeting
at the heart of Tracy Lett’s new play.
This razor-sharp comedy turns from hilarious to chilling
as petty policy matters give way to the truth roiling
just beneath the surface of the town’s historical mythology.”

In Chicago Tribune: The play “was penned by Letts during the heat of the fall presidential campaign and election. Following its Chicago run (Nov. 9 to Dec. 31), the production then will move directly to Broadway with its Chicago cast intact.”

“I think our new president will love it,” said Steppenwolf artistic director, Anna D. Shapiro, in an interview Thursday. “I am excited for the tweets.”

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When Jessie Mueller leaves Waitress, she’ll be succeded the show’s creator, Sara Bareilles, starting March 31 for 10 weeks.

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Big Apple Circus saved

Full cast announced for The Little Foxes,opening at MTC’s  Samuel J. Friedman  April 19.

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Broome St Academy, a NYC public charter high schoo,l has won a American Theatre Wing Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative grant of $12,000.  It is one of seven schools nationwide to be given grants this year.

Congratulations Laura Benanti and her husband, new parents of Ella Rose Benanti-Brown, born on Valentine’s Day

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Stage Kisses in the last 100 years

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Watch the cast of “Significant Other”

When the President of the United States Tweeted that the press was the “enemy of the American people,” he (surely unintentionally) evoked Ibsen’s 1882 play “An Enemy of the People.”

Ibsen used “Enemy of the People” ironically. Main character actually a hero, targeted by ignorant mob.
The press=heroes; Trump=mob https://t.co/1c5swZIKn4

— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) February 17, 2017

 

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RIP Max Ferra, 79, founder INTAR THEATRE, Off Broadway company producing Latino playwrights in English