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Broadway Season Preview Updated: Denzel, Etc. Trump’s Artists RESIST. RIP Jerry Lewis. Week in NY Theater

My Broadway 2017-2018 Preview Guide has been updated, thanks to a flurry of new shows announced, a couple this past week:

Denzel Washington will lead the 20-member cast for the fifth Broadway production of The Iceman Cometh, for a 14-week Broadway run starting March 22, and opening April 26, 2018.

 

A revival of Children of a Lesser God, starring Joshua Jackson,and Lauren Ridloff, the first Black Miss Deaf America, will open at Studio 54 on April 11, 2018. The Tony-winning play, which will be directed by Kenny Leon, is about the romance between a hearing man and a deaf woman.

In 1917 Zurich, an artist, Tristan Tzara; a writer, James Joyce; and a revolutionary, Lenin, collide.

 

Broadway Poll: Favorite Fall 2017 Show?

Vote for which show you’re most looking forward to.

 

Two for one tickets on sale NOW. (Hot shows go fast.)

 

The Week in Politics and Theater

 

Trump’s entire arts committee resigns with secret message — RESIST

 

Tonya Pinkins as Caroline and Veanne Cox as Rose   in a scene from CAROLINE, OR CHANGE

From Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s @2004 Caroline or Change, prescient subplot about Confederate monument

Song:

 

That old copper statue by the courthouse downtown
Honoring the brave Confederate soldier,
The South’s defender, the Civil War,
Ain’t there no more, it ain’t there no more.
Last evenin’ somebody heist the hateful thing,
Unscrewed it, carried it away.

 

Standin’ there 100 year, now that statue he just disappear.
Things change everywhere, even here.

 

The Week in New York Theater

Groundhog Day will play its final performance Sept 17, after 176 performances and 32 previews. It joins Great Comet and Bandstand in announcing its closing in September.

 

Most Underrated Shows on Broadway (listed alphabetically)

 

Ben Platt as Evan Hansen

Ben Platt, widely acclaimed and Tony winning for his title role in “Dear Evan Hansen,” will leave the show  on November 19. The show plans to go on.

A musical based on the old TV show The Honeymooners will play at Papermill Playhouse, from September 28 to October 29, with Michael McGrath as Ralph Kramden, Michael Mastro as Ed Norton, Leslie Kritzer as (“To The Moon…”) Alice Kramden, and  Laura Bell Bundy as Trixie Norton,

Opening on Broadway’s Belasco August 13, 2018 (a year from now!):  Getting The Band Together

 

Everyone’s Fine with Virginia Woolf,” an Edward Albee spoof by the Elevator Repair Service theater company, is part of the Abron’s Arts Center 2017-18 season.

 

 

Brandy Norwood has returned to @ChicagoMusical now through Aug 31. Here she is first time around:

First five months of Frozen almost sold out within hours. Some seats on secondary market for $10,000. Musical begins on Broadway Feb 22

 

Second annual #TheatreFestNYC, introducing students to non-profit theaters, at Signature Theater Center August 29.

RIP

Lights to dim on Tues for Stuart Thompson, six-time Tony winning producer (Book o fMormon etc) and general manager, who died Thursday at 62

 

 

 

 

 

Video Fun

New video promo from The Band’s Visit

Taking a tip from Joan Crawford, @FeudFX star @JackieHoffman16 telephones her Emmy competition

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The Boss on Broadway. RIP Barbara Cook. Bye Great Comet, Bandstand. Welcome Back Steve Martin, Lea Salonga.Week in NY Theater

 

This has been the week from Hell both in the larger world and in the world of New York theater, but for theater fans also a little bit of Heaven, with the announcements of new shows, new casts, Broadway debuts, some welcome returns — and a community standing together.

Enter contest here  to win two free tickets to Bandstand by answering: What was the most underrated show you’ve ever seen on a New York stage? 

Week in New York Theater Reviews

The Terms of My Surrender

“The Terms of My Surrender” is not just an anti-Trump screed. It is also an oddly eclectic mix of sharp stand-up comedy routine, sketchy sketch comedy, memoir, parody political rally, activist exhortation, parody game show, actual talk show, prank call show, even a strip-tease (don’t ask, I won’t tell – except to say that Moore has an un-credited supporting cast.)

In format, Michael Moore’s live show has little in common with his funny but focused documentaries about specific issues,…It’s more like a scattershot variety show…But the puckish sense of humor will be enough for most of his fans

The Government Inspector

The vain, reckless son of a rich man is suddenly thrust into power by a venal group of citizens marked by their “ugliness, stupidity, greed, cowardice, corruption and sheer unpleasantness.” That’s the premise, more or less, of Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 play “The Government Inspector,” as interpreted by Red Bull Theater’s broad, bawdy production.

What saves this play from a depressing relevance is the phenomenal physical clowning by Michael Urie

Week in New York Theater News

Barbara Cook, 89

 

Bruce Springsteen will make his Broadway debut this fall with “Springsteen on Broadway,” a solo show at the Walter Kerr Theater, for five performances a week from October 3 through November 26.

“I wanted to do some shows that were as personal and as intimate as possible. I chose Broadway for this project because it has the beautiful old theaters which seemed like the right setting for what I have in mind. In fact, with one or two exceptions, the 960 seats of the Walter Kerr Theatre is probably the smallest venue I’ve played in the last 40 years. My show is just me, the guitar, the piano and the words and music. Some of the show is spoken, some of it is sung. It loosely follows the arc of my life and my work.”  He will read from his recently published autobiography, “Born to Run.”

Tickets for “Springsteen on Broadway” will go on sale August 30 at 10am ET exclusively through Ticketmaster Verified Fan®. “This unique fan-first technology levels the playing field to combat bots and get real tickets into the hands of fans who intend to go to the event.”

The Great Comet to Close September 3. Could it have been saved?

.

Amy Schumer and Keegan-Michael Key will be making their Broadway debuts in a new play by Steve Martin, “Meteor Shower,” which will also star Laura Benanti and Alan Tudy, and open November 29th.

“It’s a hot night in Ojai, California, and Corky (Amy Schumer) and her husband Norm (Alan Tudyk) are having another couple over for dinner. But Laura (Laura Benanti) and Gerald (Keegan-Michael Key) aren’t looking for a casual evening of polite small talk with new friends. Eventually, the two couples find themselves in a marital free-fall matched in velocity and peril only by the smoldering space rocks tearing through the sky.”

Bandstand to Close September 17

Errol And Fidel

New York Musical Festival Awards for Excellence 2017

Freedom Riders

“Time and the Conways” will star Elizabeth McGovern as “Mrs. Conway,” Steven Boyer as “Ernest,” Anna Camp as “Hazel,” Gabriel Ebert as “Alan,” Charlotte Parry as “Kay,” and Matthew James Thomas as “Robin,” with Anna Baryshnikov as “Carol,” Brooke Bloom as “Madge,” Alfredo Narciso as “Gerald,” and Cara Ricketts as “Joan.”

In “Escape to Margaritaville,” the Jimmy Buffett musical, Paul Alexander Nolan will lead the company as Tully, and will be joined by Alison Luff as Rachel, Lisa Howard as Tammy, Eric Petersen as Brick, Rema Webb as Marley, Don Sparks as J.D, Andre Ward as Jamal, along with Matt Allen, Tessa Alves, Sara Andreas, Marjorie Failoni, Steven Good, Angela Grovey, Albert Guerzon, Keely Hutton, Justin Keats, Mike Millan, Justin Mortelliti, Ryann Redmond, Ian Michael Stuart, and Brett Thiele.

Theater for a New Audience presents Adrienne Kennedy’s first new play in 9 years, He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box, Jan 17–Feb 11 2018

Set in Georgia & NYC in 1941,
this new work braids together
the indignities of Jim Crow,
rising Nazism, sexual hypocrisy,
Christopher Marlowe,
and the lingering shadow of
a terrible crime.

 

 

 

Watch Bette Midler interview

 

 

 

Sam Shepard, 1943-2017. #Ham4All videos. Week in New York Theater

Sam Shepard, a playwright who explored the dark side of the American West in such brutal, elliptical works as “Buried Child” and “True West,” died last Thursday at the age of 73. The marquees of Broadway theaters in New York will be dimmed in his memory on Wednesday, August 2nd, at exactly 7:45pm for one minute.

Shepard was also a reluctant movie star, performing in more than 50 films, including his Oscar-nominated role in “The Right Stuff,” and more than a dozen roles on television.

Having grown up on an avocado farm in California, Shepard moved to New York in 1962, having discovered jazz and the plays of Samuel Beckett. He began his playwriting career at age 21 Off-Off Broadway in 1965. He was not just a rock n roll playwright. He was a rock n roller, writing songs with Bob Dylan, and playing drums with a group called the Holy Modal Rounders. Shepard went on to write more than 50 plays, the last, A Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations), produced at the Signature in 2014.

“There are these territories inside all of us, like a child or a father or the whole man, and that’s what interests me more than anything: where those territories lie.”

“I’m not doing this in order to vent demons. I want to shake hands with them.”

“I’m a great believer in chaos. I don’t believe that you start with a formula and then you fulfill the formula. Chaos is a much better instigator, because we live in chaos – we don’t live in a rigorous form.”

Obituary New York Times

Remembering Sam Shepard, PBS Newshour

Q & A, American Theatre, 1984

An appreciation by Magic Theater founder John Lion in 1984: “Rock ’n’ Roll Jesus With a Cowboy Mouth. Sam Shepard, like Elvis, has found an infectious groove in the cracks of American mythology”

Week in NY Theater Reviews

To The End of the Land Review: An Israeli Love Triangle Defined By War

NYMF Review: The Goree All Girl String Band. Prisoners Fiddling Their Way to Freedom.

NYMF Review: A Wall Apart. Love and Rock N Roll vs. The Berlin Wall.

Bubbly Black Girl, Oak vs. Mandy, and the Continuing Relevance of Race on Broadway (and the World)

Midsummer Night’s Dream Review: Public Theater Upstaged and Upstaging

Week in NY Theater News

Soho Rep will return to its longtime home with a new season that includes new works from Aleshea Harris and Jackie Sibblies Drury.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s month long #Ham4all fundraising challenge to raise money for the Immigrants: We Get the Job Done Coalition, has concluded.

James Iglehart

Josh Groban

Phillipa Soo

Bobby Cannavale (and his baby peeing in the tub)

Alex Lacamoire (and familiar guest)

 

I just really love theater.
I love it the way most people love sports or food.
I love everything about it. I love reading it.
I love seeing it even when it’s bad.
I love teaching it. I especially like making it.,,,

I’m not sure it loves me back.

– Jessica R. Williams as a playwright in the Netflix film, The Incredible Jessica James

Broadway on PBS. The World on NY Stages. Kushner on Trump (not THAT Kushner.) Week in New York Theater

Attention this week has focused on theater from abroad. The Canadian theater company Soulpepper is wrapping up its month-long residence at Signature. The first annual Immigrant Arts  in America Summit concluded with a rousing concert and resulted in the formation of an Immigrant Arts Coalition.  An Israeli play, “To the End of the Land,” opened at the Lincoln Center Festival, greeted by pickets. (Stay tuned for my review.)

Week in New York Theater Reviews

 

And She Would Stand Like This Review: LGBTQ House of Euripides, Snap

“Greek tragedy meets Harlem ball scene. Fantastic,” RuPaul Tweeted succinctly after seeing “And She Would Stand Like This.” The Harlem-based Movement theater company’s adaptation of Euripides’ “The Trojan Women,” which has opened at A.R.T./NY, is inspired by “Paris is Burning,” the 1990 film documentary by Jennie Livingston that chronicled the elaborate culture of drag balls by LGBTQ+ people of color in the 1980s.

Spoon River, Soulpepper

Spoon River Review: The Dead, Singin’ and Regrettin’

In “Spoon River,” we meet a town full of drunks, hypocrites, home-grown philosophers, resentful husbands, frustrated wives, an arsonist, a killer, and dozens more – all of them dead…and all of them singing and fiddling and stomping with glee.

As part of their month-long residence at Signature Center, Canada’s Soulpepper theater company has created a lively, joyful musical adaptation of Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, the celebrated 1915 book of poems by more than 200 residents of the fictional town of Spoon River, Illinois – or more precisely, residents of the graveyard in the town; the poems are expanded tombstone epitaphs

NYMF Review: Temple of the Souls. A Romeo and Juliet romance in 16th Century Puerto Rico

“Temple of the Souls,” a musical about a doomed, Romeo and Juliet romance in 16th century Puerto Rico between a Spanish conquistador’s daughter and a Taino, begins with a thrill. The cast, dressed in the naguas (loincloths), masks and straw headgear of the indigenous people of the island, dance sensuously and athletically to a tuneful melody driven by an infectious beat….Little in the nearly two hours (without intermission) that follow the opening number in “Temple of the Souls” quite matches it.

The Fourth Messenger

NYMF Review: The Fourth Messenger. Buddha as a 21st Century Woman

The story of the Buddha informs this intriguing and well-produced musical at the New York Musical Festival about a modern-day female spiritual leader. But it’s not until the last fifth of the show that we realize what aspect of the Buddha’s life most struck Tanya Shaffer, who wrote the earnest script, and Vienna Teng, who composed the delightfully eclectic score. It was when future Buddha, Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who had been sheltered from the world by his father the king, left his home and family behind to help alleviate suffering in the world.
How would we feel if a 21st century Buddha sacrificed their connections to their loved ones for the sake of strangers? And would we feel differently if that Buddha were a woman?

Week in New York Theater News

Complete list of nominations for the 2017 New York Innovative Theatre Awards, honoring Off-Off Broadway

NYC’s first ever “cultural plan” will link funding of arts groups to the diversity of their staff and board

 

Sweeney Todd

My review of Sweeney Todd with the first cast

Missed Sarah Delappe’s The Wolves when at Playwright’s Realm? It’s coming to Lincoln Center in November.

 

PBS Great Performances broadcasts Broadway.

(Links are to my reviews.)

Laura Benanti

She Loves Me
Friday, October 20, 9 pm-12 am ET

Present Laughter
Friday, November 3, 9 pm ET

 

In the Heights – Chasing Broadway Dreams
Friday, November 10, 9-10:30 pm ET
A behind-the-scenes documentary

Prince of Broadway – A Tribute to Harold Prince
Friday, November 17, 9-10:30 pm ET

Corbin Bleu and Lora Lee Gayer

Holiday Inn
Friday, November 24, 9-11:30 pm ET

Hamilton’s America
Friday, December 1, 9-10:30 pm ET
A documentary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antigone in Ferguson. Uma! Euan! Emmy! Week in New York Theater

“I am a foolish man…I am crushed, I have been crushed by fate,” cried out Reg E. Cathey as King Creon, at a climactic moment in  the free Saturday performance of “Antigone in Ferguson,” an adaptation by Theater of War of Sophocles’ 2,500-year-old tragedy.
Earlier, upon first assuming office, Creon had preened: “A leader is nothing without his advisors, and I will have the best,” which brought a laugh from the audience in the Howard Playground in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Things turned ugly when Creon went through with his threat to execute his niece Antigone (Sonja John) for burying her brother, in defiance of  his explicit order — a decision that  led to Creon’s own destruction.

“I was surprised that I felt bad for Creon,” an audience member said in the extensive conversation after the show. “As a schoolteacher, I know how important it is to try to calm things down. That’s what he was trying to do. Clearly, he was doing it in the wrong way.”

“Antigone in Ferguson” — which was performed by cast members from the HBO TV series “The Wire,” as well as a gospel chorus made up of residents and activists from Ferguson, Missouri — was the first of some 60 productions over the next two years that Theater of War will bring to some 60 locations in New York City — classic plays that address current issues.

These Broadway veterans have been nominated for Emmy Awards
Complete list of nominees.

Week in New York Theater Reviews

Pipeline

As “Pipeline” begins, we learn that a black teenager has gotten into a physical scuffle with his teacher and is in danger of being expelled, and arrested. Morisseau masterfully upends the tired assumptions that might attach to such a drama, in a play that is not just smart and engaging; it is also the most literate of any I’ve seen this year

Matthew McConaughey vs. The Devil, An American Myth

(New York Musical Festival)

How did so many talented people produce a show so pointless, derivative and mean? Its worst sin may be that it is rarely funny…Matthew McConaughey vs. the Devil” doesn’t make much sense from the get-go. It is not, however, completely damnable….The real salvation is in the production values.

Oscar Isaac in Hamlet at the Public Theater

Hamlet

for all this fiddling around, and despite too many moments of director-engendered incoherence, Sam Gold’s “Hamlet” ultimately worked for me. This is largely because of Oscar Isaac’s performance…Gold’s radical interpretation of the play did not for me undermine the power and clarity of Isaac’s Hamlet

Opening Skinner’s Box

There are two kinds of questions posed by the Improbable Theater Company’s production of “Opening Skinner’s Box,” a stage adaptation of the 2004 book by Lauren Slater that describes ten famous and often flabbergasting psychology experiments. The show opens the 2017 Lincoln Center Festival.

There are the intriguing questions about human behavior that the experiments themselves attempted to address…Then there are the questions about the show itself:…What does one get out of this stage piece that one cannot get out of Slater’s book?

Amerike: The Golden Land

This musical revue surveying 50 years in song of Jewish immigration to New York has some stirring moments. One longs for more of them….the creative team, who first put the show together in 1982, works hard to unearth period songs intelligently and present them authentically. There is also much loveliness in the production,

Will on TNT

a speculative TV series about William Shakespeare’s early career in London…a series that features, among other attributes, a cast of soap opera-level hunks and beauties in some extremely graphic scenes of torture, slightly more demure humping, and the first rap battle in iambic pentameter.

Week in New York Theater News


Uma Thurman to make her Broadway debut in November in The Parisian Woman, political drama by Beau Willimon (House of Cards) in a theater yet to be determined.

The Parisian Woman, which was commissioned by The Flea Theater Off-Off Broadway and debuted at @SouthCoastRep in 2013, is derived from a 19th century French play by Henry Francois Becque, and focuses on a socialite in Washington D.C.

The new theater critic at New York Magazine — Sara Holdren (@swholdren) an accomplished theater director .

Here’s her take-down in culturebot of Joan of Arc:Into The Fire

excerpt:

“If I believed in Joan’s god, I’d pray for a world in which all artists could tell any story, no matter its distance from their personal experience — a world in which radical imagination, real empathy, and respect and care for one’s material and one’s collaborators lay at the heart of every process. I am not taking issue with the team that created Joan of Arc: Into the Fire for being men, but I am taking issue with what they made, which is, at its heart, retrogressive and patriarchal.”

Euan Morton becomes the new King George III in Hamilton starting July 28

Grand Central Publishing, publisher that of Hamilton The Revolution, will publish “Dear Evan Hansen: Through the Window” in November.

Broadway in the Boros FREE

First up: Noon,Fri 7/21 Anastasia and Great Comet, at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens

The Bronx, July 24:

Staten Island, July 28:

l.

2017 Edgerton Foundation New Play Awards of $359,00 to 13 shows; four of them in NYC

This Ain’t No Disco, music & lyrics by Stephen Trask & Peter Yanowitz,
book by Rick Elice, at Atlantic Theater Company

This Flat Earth by Lindsey Ferrentino at Playwrights Horizons

The Treasurer by Max Posner at Playwrights Horizons

Skintight by Joshua Harmon at Roundabout Theatre Company

James Franco

James Franco shuts down Off-Off-Broadway’s ‘James Franco and Me’

“James Franco and Me,” a play set to run next month at the Peoples Improv Theater on E. 24th St., has been cancelled after getting a cease and desist letter from the 39-year-old star’s lawyers.

“We’re just going to remove any mention of James Franco….We’re calling it ‘______ and Me’

Summer Takes Center Stage. Week in New York Theater

Summer means outdoor entertainment, much of it free– like the Broadway in Bryant Park lunchtime concerts…

Seeing You, sung by Barrett Doss, Andy Karl and cast.

Watch Groundhog Day at Bryant Park – three songs

…and Broadway Barks, the annual pet adoption event at Shubert Alley:

Acting with Animals: Celebrities dish on their furry co-stars.

It also means theater festivals

 


June Quiz

Oscar Isaac in Hamlet at the Public Theater

July openings

New York Theater Reviews

Marvin’s Room

So much is so sad in the lives of Bessie (Lily Taylor) and Lee (Janeane Garofalo, in her Broadway debut) as to make the audience fully justified in wondering: Should we be laughing at this?

Yet laugh we do, thanks to the playwright’s subversive worldview, and a production directed with unflashy effectiveness by Anne Kauffman (The Nether, A Life, etc. etc), who is, remarkably, making her Broadway debut.

Seeing You

“Seeing You” [is] a dance and theater piece about World War II written and co-directed by Randy Weiner (a producer of both Sleep No More  and Queen of the Night ), … Let’s  [test “Seeing You” by applying] the six essential elements in any good immersive theater to this show, which may not be the top of the line in the genre, but that fans of immersive theater would surely find worthwhile.

Jessy Smith

Ghost Light

Third Rail Projects, the dazzling experimental and self-described “experiential” company that has created engaging site-specific theater in an old mental institution in Williamsburg (“Then She Fell,” about Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland) and an old warehouse in Bushwick (“The Grand Paradise,” about a tropical vacation), now sites “Ghost Light” in a unique location for an immersive work of theater – a theater at Lincoln Center…we view from above (a balcony, catwalk, or staircase landing) the sort of wordless scenes that Third Rail does so well, vivid and eerie moments of movement

Kim’s Convenience

Before the start of “Kim’s Convenience,” Soulpepper artistic director Arthur Schultz introduced it to the New York audience as “the most successful new Canadian play of the last decade.” The show, a funny but glib comedy about a Korean immigrant family that runs a grocery store in Toronto, has gone on tour throughout Canada, and has been turned into a television series on the Canadian network CBC .

It is now the first show to open in the month-long festival of Canadian theater being marketed as“Soulpepper on 42nd Street.”

Jolly Abraham and Gregg Mozgala

Cost of Living

In “Cost of Living,” an eye-opening play featuring a quartet of extraordinary performances, playwright Martyna Majok offers a tart retort to that sappy Barbra Streisand song about the luck of people who need people, and smashes more than one stereotype along the way. …[W]hat’s most wonderful about the MTC production, superbly directed by Jo Bonney, are a series of unforgettable scenes between the couples that thrust us into an intimacy that is rare in the theater.

To T or Not To T

D’Lo is a transgender Tamil Sri Lankan-American artist, and he explores each of those identities in “To T or Not to T” (the T in the title referring to the taking of testosterone) in the 70-minute show at Dixon Place that opens the 26th annual Hot Festival , “the world’s longest-running LGBT festival.”

New York Theater News

More than 60 artists have called for Lincoln Center to cancel a play backed by the Israeli government. Lincoln Center refused. Anti-Israel signatories include Annie Baker, Caryl Churchill, Sam Gold, Samuel D Hunter, Wallace Shawn, Tracey Letts, Andre Gregory

A Clockwork Orange (based on Anthony Burgess novel) is coming to New World Stages in September, the latest stage adaptation of a dystopian novel/

Dominique Morisseau’s Playwright’s Rules of Engagement, inserted in program for her play Pipeline

New American cast members Carolee Carmello and Norm Lewis perform “A Little Priest”from Sweeney Todd on the Today Show.

Frozen Breaks The Ice. Indecent Lives On, With Pride! Week in New York Theater

Indecent, which announced it would close on Broadway today, suddenly reversed itself this week, and will play on until August 5.
It seems a fitting Pride Day gift for this backstage play about the first Broadway show to feature a kiss between two women.

Khris Davis and Will Pullen

Sweat is closing today, but TCG is publishing Lynn Nottage’s script. The play, which won Nottage her second Pulitzer Prize for Drama, will surely have a life after Broadway.

Sunset Boulevard also closes today.

Ticket Giveaway

What play has most moved you? Answer here to win two ticket to Horton Foote’s The Traveling Lady

Online Archives – 1

The Brooklyn Academy of Music has a new online archives.

 

Online Archives – 2

The Royal Shakespeare Company has a new online archives with 3,000 photographs from 200 RSC productions
(eg Hamlet, 1936-2016)

Week in NY Theater Reviews

In A Word

Lauren Yee’s “in a word” is, on one level, about a married couple whose seven-year-old son has been missing for two years, the mother’s grief and guilt causing a breakdown in her relationship with her husband, and also in her relationship with reality. But what most distinguishes this intriguing puzzle of a play is the playwright’s concerns with the concomitant breakdown in language.

The Traveling Lady

Like much of the rest of the body of Horton Foote’s work, which numbers some 60 dramas, “The Traveling Lady,” is poignant, gently amusing, and peopled with believable small-town characters who struggle and strive to be decent, not always successfully.

1984

The stage version as written and directed by British theater stars Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan is certainly an intense and disorienting experience, with a fine cast featuring a spot-on Reed Birney, a stirring Tom Sturridge and Olivia Wilde in a memorable Broadway debut; as well as some attention-grabbing stagecraft executed with technically impressive precision….or all the ample reminders in “1984” the play of why “1984” the novel is so unsettling, fans of the horror movie genre might find more to appreciate here than those theatergoers who have come to the Hudson Theater expecting some special intellectual, emotional or contemporary political illumination of George Orwell’s dystopian novel.

Week in New York Theater News

CATS will play its final performance a Dec 30, after 16 previews & 593 regular performances

(l-r) Tony Shalhoub and Katrina Lenk in The Band’s Visit

The Off- Broadway cast of The Bands Visit will stay intact when the musical opens on Broadway on November 9 — including Tony Shalhoub, Kartina Lenk and John Cariani.

 

As usual, Powerhouse Theater at Vassar College is offering an intriguing summer of developing shows, including a musical adaptation of The Secret Life of Bees with book by Lynn Nottage and score by Duncan Sheik; and a reading of  Diana, a musical about Princess Di

 

 

Tony Fallout. Bard Targeted. The Boss on Broadway? Week in NY and San Francisco Theater

Tony Epilogue

Within days of the Tony Awards (List of winners. Best moments) and the triumph of Dear Evan Hansen, three plays announced they were closing in June. Two of them – Indecent and Sweat (both closing June 25) – marked the Broadway debuts of two acclaimed, Pulitzer-prize winning women playwrights. (Sweat did not win any of the Tony for which it was nominated, but Indecent won two!)
Indecent playwright Paula Vogel blamed the co-chief critics of the New York Times

Sweat playwright Lynn Nottage seconded

I put some blame on the Tony Awards broadcast: If they would give straight plays the attention they deserve, Sweat, Indecent etc could find their audience.

Whatever the reasons, something is amiss.

New Broadway Season

If the Broadway season had a bittersweet epilogue, we are already in the prologue to the new season, which officially launches Thursday with the opening of 1984:

Broadway 2017-2018 Preview Guide

#FreeShakespeare 

After hammering criticism on social media by advocates on the political right, both Delta and Bank of America rescinded their funding for the Public Theater’s production of Julius Caesar at Shakespeare in the Park, for depicting a Trump-like Caesar. Protesters subsequently interrupted the play.
The Public’s Julius Caesar ends its run today, but this is unlikely to stop the attacks. According to news reports, Shakespeare companies across the country are being targeted on social media for the Public Theater’s production of Julius Caesar. Are the attackers confused, or doesn’t the distinction matter to them?

More on the Julius Caesar flap – photos, news reports, commentaries, reviews.

 

Week in New York Theater News

Preliminary rating for the Tony broadcast shows steep 31% decline from 2016 – a 4.7 rating, way down from 6.8 in 2016. The number of viewers will wind up being about six million.

The Pearl Theatre Co. filed for bankruptcy, and is closing after 33 years.

2017 summer schedule for free Broadway in Bryant Park lunchtime concerts (including Come From Away, Great Comet, Groundhog Day, and Anastasia.)

Cast completed for Frozen, headed to the St. James Broadway in Spring 2018

Week in San Francisco Theater

I spent the week in San Francisco, attending the annual American Theatre Critics Association conference.

I reviewed two shows aiming for Broadway:

Stephanie Styles and Drew Gehling

Roman Holiday

“Roman Holiday,” a musical running briefly at San Francisco’s Golden Theater in a traditional pre-Broadway tryout, grafts more than a dozen songs by Cole Porter onto the 1953 movie that turned Audrey Hepburn into a star….It’s tempting to call “Roman Holiday” an inefficient delivery system for Cole Porter’s hits. There’s [little] rationale for its existence.

(foreground) Kuhoo Verma (Aditi Verma) and Michael Maliakel (Hemant Rai); (background) Mahira Kakkar (Pimmi Verma), Rohan Gupta (Varun Verma), and Sharvari Deshpande (Ria Verma).

Monsoon Wedding

Mira Nair…is directing a musical adaptation of her 2001 film Monsoon Wedding that is currently on stage at the Berkeley Repertory Theater, with plans to move to Broadway.

Let’s hope it does. The story of the many family members who converge on Delhi for an arranged marriage is lively, colorful, and tuneful. It also has something to say

From this week’s American Theatre Critics Association panel discussions:

Bay Area designers

Choreographer Kimberly Richards: Choreography is not just the dancing; it’s all the movement. That’s often overlooked.

Scenic designer Nina Ball’s advice to critics: “Get to know what we work with — scale, harmony, line, space.”

Costume designer Abra Berman: My aim in modern dress shows is for costumes to so subtly enhance the characters that they’re not noticed –

Shakespeare: The Second 400 Years with five artistic directors of Shakespeare theater companies in the Bay Area.

William J. Brown, Arabian Shakespeare Festival; Leslie Schisgall Currier, Marin Shakespeare Company, , moderator Philippa Kelly, L. Peter Callender, African-American Shakespeare Company, Eric Ting, California Shakespeare Theater, Rebecca Ennals, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival

John Simon said black people couldn’t do Shakespeare. I wanted my life to prove him wrong — L. Peter Callender, founding artistic director of the African-American Shakespeare Company.

There’s a distinction between theater and museums. We can’t separate what’s on stage from the issues affecting a present-day audience – Eric Ting, California Shakespeare Theater

We start teaching Shakespeare too late. We should be teaching it when kids are five and learning new words all the time. -Rebecca Ennals of San Francisco Shakespeare Festival

Perspectives on Criticism

Bay Area critics: Robert Hurwitt (retired from the San Francisco Chronicle), Karen D’Souza (San Jose Mercury News), Lily Janice (new critic at San Francisco Chronicle.)

Birth of a critic:”I was poor, I was in grad school, I couldn’t afford to go to theater” (free tix!) – Karen D’Souza

A lot of my career was pushing for more arts coverage –  Robert Hurwitt retired recently after ~40 years as a critic

I didn’t consider myself a journalist, but reporting is an important part of every review I write – Lily Janiak

 

 

A play is not complete until somebody weighs in who’s not part of the production. That’s part of theater – Lily Janiak

The Play’s The Thing: Critics and New Work.

Panel with five Bay Area playwrights: Aaron Loeb, Stuart Bousel, Christopher Chen, moderator Amy Mueller (director and producer), Michael Gene Sullivan, Lauren Gunderson.

Aaron Loeb sees critics as useful for “blowing on your ember” — which becomes a catchphrase for the hour. Loeb advice to critics: “Engage with what the thing is, not what you wish it was.” One critic said of one of his plays: “This should have been a musical.”

Critics are supportive of new plays because I think they have stake in establishing theater identity – Chris Chen

“Theater is the anti-technology. You have to show up at the same time, and listen to live human beings. It’s the opposite of our devices and computers.” – Lauren Gunderson.

 

AR Gurney

 

Tony Awards Worldwide! SpongeBob on Broadway! Cyndi Lauper, Working Girl. Brendan Urie gets Kinky. Week in NY Theater

The 71st Annual Tony Awards will be shown on four continents, though not all will get to see it Sunday evening, June 11th.
Will this put extra pressure on Tony voters, whose ballots are due Friday at 5 p.m.?

The nominees don’t look pressured

Meanwhile, life, or at least theater, goes on:

June 2017 New York Theater Openings

Awards

Theatre World Awards

Broadway newcomers sum up the season

Drama Desk Awards

Tony Awards

 

Week in NY Theater Reviews

The End of Longing

“I would rather drink alcohol than do just about anything there is to do on the face of the planet,” Matthew Perry as Jack says to a woman he’s just met in “The End of Longing,” Perry’s debut play. “I drink for every occasion, both bad or good. I like it more than sports, more than family, and — present company excluded — I like it more than women. “
That line is the most intriguing in Perry’s play, preparing us for what in retrospect seems inevitable — Jack’s struggle to overcome his alcoholism… MCC’s production of “The End of Longing” comes off as better than the script deserves.

Ernest Shackleton Loves Me

“Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” may not be the only musical ever set in Antarctica or the only one that tells the story of a real-life polar explorer; it’s surely not the only musical about a struggling musician and single mother in Brooklyn. But it has to be the only musical that combines the two, when the early 20th century Arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton enters the studio of early 21st century composer Kat through her refrigerator. This charming, kooky, playful, tuneful, toe-tapping, original musical probably shouldn’t work as well as it does.

Week in NY Theater News

 

Playing at the Palace starting in November: SpongeBob SquarePants the musical

 

Cyndi Lauper soon to pen songs for a Broadway-aiming musical based on Working Girl, 1988 Melanie Griffith film

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Behold @PublicTheaterNY’s 50th season! new work by @Lynnbrooklyn @ERSTheater takes on the Bard much more
https://publictheater.org/en/Public-Theater-Season/2017-2018-Season/

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Broadway Season Summed Up. Week in NY Theater

 

The 2016-17 Broadway season’s statistics, according to The Broadway League:

Shows that opened during season: 45
(eight of them not eligible for Tony Awards)

Attendance at all shows: 13,270,343 visitors
(down about .3 percent from 2015-16)

Revenue:
$1,449,321,564.64
(up 5.5 percent from 2015-16)

Average ticket price: $109 (up from $103)

Revenue made a big jump, even though attendance has dipped slightly. The reason is primarily increased ticket prices

The hit musicals have shown no restraint in what they charge their customer

Top ticket price for

Hamilton: $849
Hello, Dolly: $748
Sunday in the Park with George (now closed): $499
Book of Mormon: $477

(Unmentioned in the Broadway League report: The top ticket price for a Broadway show has gone up 78 percent. It was a year ago, in other words, that Hamilton started charging $849. Before that, the Book of Mormon’s $477 was the top ticket price.)

The spin on this, from such as Broadway producer Barry Weissler, quoted in the New York Times: “It’s not about us charging more, it’s about the public wanting to see something they’re willing to pay for, and it’s an amazing credit to the work being done on Broadway.”

Such an argument absurdly absolving producers from any responsibility for their price gouging, will do nothing to bring Broadway back as a popular art and entertainment.

Amber Gray as Helene

But the numbers, of course, don’t get at what makes a season special. By any measure, Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812 is doing fine with almost 100 percent attendance, 90 percent of “gross potential, and 12 Tony nominations, more than any other show. But the show is especially exciting to me because it has brought the concept of “immersive theater” to the proscenium stages of Broadway, thanks to its designers, primarily set designer Mimi Lien. How can you quantify the pleasure that Amber Gray gives by singing “Charming” in that musical? For that matter, how can you assign a number to Significant Other, a show that closed quickly, when it featured the memorably hilarious scene of Gideon Glick’s elaborate dance of indecision as he struggles with whether to click the key on his computer that will send the love e-mail?

Week in Awards

Katrina Link, of A Band’s Visit and Indecent, performing at the Obies

Obies


Better Midler accepts her OCC

Week in NY Theater Reviews

The Boy Who Danced on Air

In 2010, an Afghan journalist produced an hour-long documentary for PBS’ Frontline entitled The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan , about the illegal revival of an ancient tradition called Bacha Bazi (literally “boy play“), which involves wealthy men buying boys as young as 11 from their poor families, and training them in traditional dance, which they perform at all-male parties wearing women’s attire. The boys are often expected to gratify their masters sexually, and sometimes their masters’ friends as well.

That documentary “set us on  a half-decade journey of researching and writing,” composer Tim Rosser and wordsmith Charlie Sohne write in a program note for “The Boy Who Danced on Air,” their musical that uses the complex and unsettling context of the Bacha Bazi to tell a love story between two 16-year-old boys.

Building the Wall

“Building The Wall,” Robert Schenkkan’s chilling two character play that imagines the consequences of President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, is clearly meant to help rally the resistance…it is comparatively modest, even restrained. Yet it is also an intelligent, well-played and ultimately potent drama.

Can You Forgive Her?

By the end of “Can You Forgive Her?”, it’s not clear which of the five characters in Gina Gionfriddo’s latest comedy is the “You” of the title, and who is the “Her.” All the characters in one way or another are grappling with debts either financial or emotional, or both.

The Week in NY Theater News

(l-r) Tony Shalhoub and Katrina Lenk in The Band’s Visit

The Band’s Visit is moving to Broadway’s Ethel Barrymore Theater, set to open ons Nov 9, 2017. Although it closed at the Atlantic Theater Off-Broadway in January, it has been sweeping most theater awards this season. The musical, based on a 2007 independent film of the same name, will not necessarily have the same cast on Broadway.

 

New York City Opera will present the U.S. debut of the opera Brokeback Mountain in 2018

Michael Bloomberg donates $75 million to the new New York City arts center called The Shed.

What IS The Shed?