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

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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 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.

oscar-2017-set

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.

beatty-pic

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

feb-theater-quiz-collage

Take the February theater quiz

Week in New York Theater Reviews

kid-victory-nyt

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.

everybody-for-calendar

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

1

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.

2

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.

3

presidents-onstage-collage

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.

4

harry-belafonte-young-2

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.

glenn-as-norma

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

 

ct-tracy-letts-minutes-steppenwolf-broadway-20-001

“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.”

sb-in-w

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

big-apple-circus-logo

Big Apple Circus saved

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

the-little-foxes-cast

 

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

 

max-ferra

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

Theater Survives. Color Purple Grabs a Grammy. Christian Borle Joins The Staged Resistance. Week in NY Theater

Theater goes back thousands of years — driven home by newly available theater-related images from the Metropolitan Museum of Art — and overpriced Broadway ticket prices won’t finally kill it. That’s because, for every Broadway musical announcing $750 tickets, there is an entire Off-Off Broadway festival for just $9/ (See details below, under “Not Discount,” and “Performeteria.”)

More below: Christian Borle joins the staged resistance; Isherwood is out; The Color Purple’s Grammy is just one of the theater awards announced this week. Will La La Land become a stage musical? Its director replies.

Week in New York Theater Reviews

Annie Dow and Eddie Martinez

Annie Dow and Eddie Martinez

Fade

Fade” is a play about the bond that develops between a Mexican-born TV writer and a Mexican-American janitor at the studio. Its author, Tanya Saracho, is a Mexican-born TV writer/producer …”Fade” is well acted, and Saracho’s script touches on several worthwhile issues…But..it’s frankly hard to muster much outrage about the behind-the-scenes machinations of television.

The Object Lesson dinner 4

The Object Lesson

Geoff Sobelle, self-declared “maker of absurdist performance art,” is credited as the creator and performer of “The Object Lesson,” but it at least co-stars thousands of boxes. These are boxes that fill up the floor of the New York Theatre Workshop, and are stacked up to the ceiling….If Proust were a packrat, if Felix the Cat were a dramatist, they might have created something like “The Object Lesson.”

Kyle Scatliffe and Nicholas Barasch

Kyle Scatliffe and Nicholas Barasch

Big River

The Encores! production of “Big River” is a pleasant enough confection but with a bitter aftertaste.To understand why, it helps to know that, when he was 11 years old, Samuel Clemens discovered the mutilated corpse of a man named Noriam Todd – an escaped slave who had been hunted down and killed…This “Big River” [based on The Adventures of Huckleberr Finn] did not strike me as a weighty enough proaction, although there are plenty of lines…that use irony to point to the pervasive racial bigotry of the times.

Rolls Andre, Ben Langhorst, Damon Daunno

Rolls Andre, Ben Langhorst, Damon Daunno

Beardo

In “Beardo,” we are back in Russia with Dave Malloy, the composer of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.” Instead of a Broadway theater, the Pipeline Theater Company’s new production of Malloy’s musical has opened at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. And instead of dramatizing a novel by Tolstoy, “Beardo” tells a fictional version of an actual figure in Russian history, the enigmatic Grigori Rasputin.

The Week in New York Theater News

Awards

Color Purple album

The 2017 Grammy for best musical theater album was given to The Color Purple

Other albums nominated: Bright Star, Fiddler on the Roof, Kinky Boots London, Waitress

Rajiv-Joseph-Headshot

The Dramatists Guild’s second annual Horton Foote Playwriting Award and $25,000 has been awarded to Rajiv Joseph.

The American Wing’s Jonathan Larsen $10,000 grants go to
Ben Bonnema
Maggie-Kate Coleman & Erato A. Kremmyda
Ty Defoe & Tidtaya Sinutoke
and Michael R. Jackson

Finalists for Susan Smith Blackburn Award for women playwrights:

lin-manuel-miranda-2

Lin-Manuel Miranda will perform “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana at this year’s Oscars.

 

Production of Junk in L.A.

Production of Junk in L.A.

Playwright Ayad Akhtar (Disgraced) returns in September to Broadway with “Junk” (as in junk bonds) about greedy Wall Street traders

charles-isherwood

Yes, Charles Isherwood has left the New York Times as drama critic, and no, they are not eliminating the position.

Discounts

sally_field_joe_mantello_Glass Menagerie“The Glass Menagerie” starring Sally Field and Joe Mantello will have $30 front-row rush tickets until it opens March 9

Annaleigh Ashford and Jake Gyllenhaal

Annaleigh Ashford and Jake Gyllenhaal

“Sunday in the Park with George” starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford will have $41 front row rush tickets until it opens February 22.

Not Discount

Bette Midler

Bette Midler

“Front Row Premium” seats for Hello, Dolly starring Bette Midler now on sale..,for $550 – $750.

mondaycompanies

Off-Off Broadway Festival – Performeteria

For two nights only (Monday, March 20 and Friday, March 24), TDF will present Performeteria – 10-minute snippers of site-specific works from 15 Off-Off Broadway theater companies. Tickets are just nine dollars.

 

mare-winningham

Mare Winningham has joined the cast of “Joan of Arc: Into the Fire” by David Byrne, running Feb 14- Ap 16, at the Public Theater.

NYSpectacular7

There will be no Radio City New York Spectacular in 2017, say producers, while they work to make it better

 

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The Williamstown Theater Festival this summer will include four world premieres

6-3545_Ana Villafañe as Gloria Estefan in ON YOUR FEET! (c) Matthew Murphy

On Your Feet begins a 31-city tour in October in (where else) Miami,

lalaland

Will La-La Land be a stage musical?
‘I know people have mentioned it. I’m not closed to the idea,” [Damien] Chazelle said. “I will say though that part of the intention of this movie was to try to make something that had to be on the screen, to make a true screen musical in the fullest sense of that term, not an adaptation, not something that was kind of cross-media, but something that was made and written and intended and composed and sung and danced for the screen. So it’s not to say it couldn’t work on the stage, but it would have to be completely re-conceived and I don’t know if I’m even the person for that job.’”
(quoted by Deadline’s Pete Hammond)

Staged Resistance

2017 Shakespeare in the Park: Julius Caesar (“never felt more contemporary”) 5/23-6/18 Midsummer Nights Dream (escape?) 7/11-8/13

ChristianBorleheadshot

Christian Borle to play lead in Woodshed Collective’s rstagedeading of Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at Judson Church February 20 (Presidents Day) The Brecht play is the first in the company’s 20/20 Reading Series of “anti-fascist & political plays speaking to current political climate”

 

What do we do in the time of Trump? The theater community is trying to figure out the answer.

 

 

 

The N-Word on Stage

The wrangling over a production of Ragtime in a New Jersey high school demonstrates that the use of the word on stage remains, “complicated”—and confusing, and dizzying in the array of questions it provokes, among them: How far can a work go in order to be historically accurate, or (if a contemporary piece) authentic? How alienating are stage characters allowed to be? How much must playwrights and directors and producers keep audience sensitivities in mind (does it depend on the particular audience?) or is their only mandate to present the truth? Whose truth? Does it matter who the “truth teller” is?

RIP

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Harvey Lichtenstein, 87, who led the Brooklyn Academy of Music for 32 years, turning into a center of cutting edge arts. During his tenure, he presented such once-in-a-lifetime theatrical events as
Peter Brook’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Philip Glass’s “Satyagraha,” an opera about Mahatma Gandhi’s youth in South Africa
“The Gospel at Colonus,” a freewheeling adaptation by Lee Breuer and Bob Telson of a work by the Greek tragedian Sophocles
Philip Glass opera, “Einstein on the Beach”
Brook’s “The Mahabharata,” a nine-hour dramatic voyage through Hindu theology and mythology.

Arthur and Barbara Gelb

Arthur and Barbara Gelb

Barbara Gelb, O’Neill biographer, playwright, 91

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“Professor” Irwin Corey, seven-time Broadway veteran and a comic who styled himself the World’s Foremost Authority, 102

1984 in 2017. Super Bowl LI for Broadway Lovers (Hamilton!) Week in NY Theater

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The original Schuyler sisters of “Hamilton” – Phillipa Soo (soon to be back on Broadway in Amelie),  Renee Elise Goldberry, and Jasmine Cephas Jones —  sang “America the Beautiful” before Super Bowl LI, which kicked off at 6:30 p.m. on Fox. Lady Gaga is headlining the Super Bowl LI halftime show.

On its Twitter feed, The Tony Awards have been helpfully interpreting the Super Bowl for Broadway fans.

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(By the way, the New England Patriots play the Atlanta Falcons.)

With dystopian novels all suddenly best-sellers again — 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, Animal Farm, It Can’t Happen Here, Fahrenheit 451 – it seems fitting that a London stage adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 is coming to Broadway’s Hudson Theater starting June 22, 2017.

Sonia Friedman and Scott Rudin are producing the adaptation by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan, a UK hit that was presented last year in several theaters in the U.S. as well. Casting has yet to be announced.

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February 2017 theater openings

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January 2017 New York theater quiz

Week in New York Theater Reviews

Stefania Lavie Owen and Lucas Hedges

Stefania Lavie Owen and Lucas Hedges

Yen

Yen, a bleak British play that opens tonight Off-Broadway, stars Lucas Hedges, Oscar-nominated last week for his role in Manchester by the Sea, and Justice Smith, of the Netflix hip-hop drama The Get Down, as two teenage brothers living alone, with no school, no friends, little food and one t-shirt to share between them….….Playwright Anna Jordan leaves little doubt that her play is meant to explore the damage caused by a lack of love….Particularly absorbing is the interaction between Justice Smith and Lucas Hedges, with their contrasting characterizations. …

The TV series stars Judd Hirsch (right) as Arthur Przybyszewski and Jermaine Fowler (left) as Franco Wicks.

The TV series stars Judd Hirsch (right) as Arthur Przybyszewski and Jermaine Fowler (left) as Franco Wicks.

In the play, Jon Michael Hill portrayed Franco Wicks and Michael McKean was Arthur Przybyszewski

In the play, Jon Michael Hill portrayed Franco Wicks and Michael McKean was Arthur Przybyszewski

Superior Donuts

A new TV series, starring Judd Hirsch and Jermaine Fowler that is based on the Broadway play by Tracy Letts that I reviewed in 2009, calling it sitcom-like.  I reprint my Broadway review, which focuses on how different the play was from Letts’ previous work.

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China on Stage

Three recent productions in New York City—Made in ChinaConfucius, and Caught— explore US-China relations.

More New York Theater News

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Alison Wright (the duped FBI secretary in the TV series “The Americans”) has been hired as the ninth and final cast member of “Sweat” by Lynn Nottage. She is the only member of the Broadway cast who didn’t also perform the show Off-Broadway.

Tina Landau (with microphone) speaking at the Ghostlight Project in Times Square

Tina Landau (with microphone) speaking at the Ghostlight Project in Times Square

Actors on Activism

Watch videos from the Actors and Activism panel of BroadwayCon, with Celia Keenan-Bolger, Hamilton’s Okieriete Onaodowan, Shuffle Along’s Amber Iman (who founded Broadway for Black Lives Matter), In Transit’s Margo Seiberg (who co-founded Racket) – and director Tina Landau, who helped found The Ghostlight Project.

“Last Days of Judas Iscariot” by Stephen Adly Guirgis, will be performed at La MaMa March 9-26, directed by Estelle Parsons, artistic director of the Actors Studio, where the production originated.  “We plan to do most of the plays of Stephen Adly Giurgis,” Parsons said, “because they are brilliant & don’t get done much”

 

 

 

The Actor’s Fund’s Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts opens in theater district in March

 

 

 

Trailer for the film adaptation of Stephen Karam’s first hit play, “Speech & Debate”

Cast portrait from Roundabout’s revival of Arthur Miller’s ThePrice , starring Jessica Hecht, Tony Shalhoub, Danny DeVito making his Broadway debut, and Mark Ruffalo. The play begins Feb 16, opens March 16.

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Watch BroadwayCon 2017. Visa Ban vs. Artists. Hamilton at Super Bowl, Week in NY Theater

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Scenes from BroadwayCon 2017

Previews of Anastasia, Amelia, Come From Away, Significant Other etc.; A surprise Q and A with Lin-Manuel Miranda via live video from London, followed by the introduction of the new Hamilton cast; a panel on actors and activism. These were among some 200 activities at BroadwayCon 2017, the second annual theater fan convention, held over the long weekend at the Javits Center. There’s no summing up,(except maybe the comment from an organizer who said: “It’s been a tough week. This is a safe space.”) Here are some snippets, including videos of Josh Groban (Great Comet), Jordan Fisher (Hamilton), Broadway for Black Lives Matter founder Amber Iman, and Broadwaycon fans beating up fighting directors.

I learned everything I could (about Zero Mostel in Fiddler on the roof) then threw it all out — Danny Burstein

I grew up naive in the South. Theater has helped me grow up in so many ways. My favorite role has been South Pacific; I became this blonde white girl vessel for what racism can look like  — Kelli O’Hara

“The best thing about theater is that it teaches empathy” – Laura Dreyfuss, Dear Evan Hansen panel,

“It’s your heart. You will find your way to activism, however big or small”~ Tina Landau, co-founder of The Ghostlight Project

Director Diane Paulus’s advice to other directors: Follow your passion. Ask big questions. Break the rules. Change the form.

As a performer, I'm more comfortable when a cast is diverse. But I have no power to make it happen - Bebe Neuwirth, Broadwaycon panel on diversity

As a performer, I’m more comfortable when a cast is diverse. But I have no power to make it happen – Bebe Neuwirth, Broadwaycon panel on diversity

Week in New York Theater Reviews

Kelly Hutchinson and Carson Elrod

Kelly Hutchinson and Carson Elrod

The Liar

In The Liar, the title character wonders whether, given his disposition, he should become a politician. But, if David Ives’ version of Pierre Corneille’s 1644 verse play may benefit from new relevance (what I call the Trump Effect), its main strength lies not in its timeliness or plot but the subversive whimsy of its language….

In his 21st century take on iambic pentameter, Ives rhymes “exit” with “sexted,” “idea” with “diarrhea,” and “muck” with “schmuck.” And he deliberately mangles Shakespeare: “But soft! What light on yonder sidewalk cracks!”

I can’t remember a play in which the playwright so obviously enjoyed his own cleverness, while at the same mocking his efforts

Alexander Flores as Tono and Lisa Ramirez as Mami

Alexander Flores as Tono and Lisa Ramirez as Mami

Tell Hector I Miss Him

Love puzzles, and messes up, the dozen characters in Tell Hector I Miss Him, a play wonderfully acted by a cast that includes veterans of Orange is the New Black. If the play itself sometimes puzzles, and shocks, it also marks a remarkable playwriting debut by 28-year-old Paola Lazaro.
Lazaro’s work is reminiscent of that by Stephen Adly Guirgis and August Wilson in its ability to turn street language into stage poetry, and to shine a warm center spotlight on people who are usually pushed to the edge.

Week in New York Theater News

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Trump visa ban complicates plans for Waterwell’s English/Farsi ‘Hamlet’ starring Arian Moayed

Via @PsychToday, the health benefits of the arts & the NEA’s role in wellness efforts. #NEA #artsheal #ArtsCEOLynch https://t.co/hAqKZsiWgp

— AmericansForTheArts (@Americans4Arts) January 30, 2017

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Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry and Jasmine Cephas Jones, the actresses who originated the roles of Eliza, Angelica and Peggy Schuyler in “Hamilton,” will reunite to perform “America the Beautiful” during the televised pre game show at the Super Bowl on February 5

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Beginning Tuesday, Hamilton will double the number of $10 daily digital lottery tickets to 46. Enter the lottery 

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Four terrific playwrights have become new Signature Theater playwrights-in-residence, two of them Pulitzer winners: Stephen Adly Guirgis (Between Riverside and Crazy), Dave Malloy, Dominique Morrisseau (Skeleton Crew) and Lynn Nottage (Sweat.). The presence of Dave Malloy (Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812) means that Signature is delving into musicals

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A musical of Meryl Streep/Ann Hathaway film “The Devil Wears Prada,” with music by Elton John and book by Paul Rudnick, is  planned for Broadway. Perfect! (no details yet.)

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abby-mueller

Abby Mueller will play Carole King in Beautiful, starting March 7, a role her sister Jessie Mueller originated on Broadway.

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I interviewed her about the budding Mueller dynasty in 2015. Both her parents are actors. Abby and her three siblings all became actors. At one point recently, Abby was in the Broadway cast of Kinky Boots while her sister Jessie Mueller starred in Beautiful, and her brother Andrew was in the Off-Broadway cast of Peter and the Starcatcher. (Abby’s twin, Matt, was back in Chicago performing in a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor.)

Our whole life, we’ve gotten, ‘Oh, it must be in your genes.’ But it’s probably a mixture of nature and nurture. There are families of doctors and of lawyers and of plumbers. We’re a family of actors.”

Speech & Debate

Speech & Debate, the film version of Stephen Karam’s first hit play will be in movie theaters (and available from iTunes) on April 7th. It features such Broadway luminaries as Lin-Manuel Miranda and Roger Bart and up-and-comers Sarah Steele (The Humans), Darren Criss (Hedwig), Austin P. McKenzie (Spring Awakening), Gideon Glick (forthcoming Significant Other) .

Blind theatergoer sues Hamilton for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, because the musical offers no performances at all with live audio narrative available on headphones. The lawsuit calls for one performance a week.

Ellen’s Stardust Cafe fired 15 more employees (total: 31), including activist in the newly formed union. The owner is being sued for wage theft

The International Human Rights Art Festival at Dixon Place March 3-5

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RIP acclaimed British actor John Hurt (Elephant Man, A Man for All Season, Naked Civil Servant, Midnight Express, Harry Potter),77

Broadway Resists, With Light and Love. BroadwayCon Glitch. Week in NY Theater

The theater community in New York and across the country countered a depressing week coming out of Washington D.C. (#potentialgrizzlies, #alternativefacts) with events signaling resistance but full of hope.

The Ghostlight Project saw people gather outside theaters in all 50 states – including 50 in New York City, plus Times Square – to shine light, literally, against what many fear is the coming darkness.

The Broadway stars who performed at the Concert for America  at Town Hall expressed optimism from the very first song — Kelli O’Hara sang Cockeyed Optimist from South Pacific. Brian Stokes Mitchell sang America the Beautiful, Billy Porter a bluesy version of Edelweiss, with the lyric “Bless our Homeland forever.” Betty Buckley Peter Gabriels’ song “Don’t Give Up.” All the performers sang “What The World Needs Now Is Love,” and, as the finale, “Let the Sunshine In,” from “Hair.”

And Chita Rivera — celebrating her 84th birthday today — sang and danced “America” from West Side Story

“We, this day, with song and dance and performance, are consecrating this day with hope,” said Cornell Brooks, the president of the NAACP, one of five social justice organizations that will receive the proceeds from this concert and what organizers Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley promise to be subsequent similar monthly events. (The others are the National Immigration Law Center, Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

Natalie Douglas at

Natalie Douglas at “Inaugural Ball” at HERE

Not all was sweet. At the (counter) Inaugural Ball, which inaugurated Sanctuary, a month-long series of new plays at Here Arts Center, Natalie Douglas sang a stirring “Mississippi Goddam,” Nina Simone’s angry Civil Rights Era anthem. But then Douglas followed that song with “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell:

We are stardust, we are golden
We are caught in the devils bargain
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

from the March on Charlotte. Someone knows their Mary Poppins!

from the March on Charlotte. Someone knows their Mary Poppins!

Scenes of Resistance

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Staged Resistance – A look at how the political resistance of theatre artists is playing out on and off stage in New York, with a focus on the new plays presents in The Resisters Project. “We gathered together for catharsis and community,” says Ashley Jacobson, Artistic Director of The Dirty Blondes, the five year old “feminist theatre company with a taste for provocation” that put together The Resister Project.

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

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Jitney

Eleven years after his death, playwright August Wilson answers Donald Trump’s bleak depiction of “inner cities,” with “Jitney,” the first play Wilson wrote in his ten-play American Century Cycle, but the last of the ten to be produced on Broadway, in a superbly acted and directed production that’s running at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater through March 12…

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Made in China

Wakka Wakka, the theater company behind Made in China, says the show is “inspired by true events.” I suspect the true part doesn’t include Mary and her neighbor getting sucked down her toilet and winding up in the People’s Republic of China, where a dragon eats them.

This puppet musical – equal parts surreal fantasy, bawdy romantic comedy, barbed political satire, and hilariously inventive visual spectacle — does include at least one true event, sort of. In a verified story that occurred in 2012, a New York shopper discovered inside the packaging of the boots she bought from Saks Fifth Avenue a handwritten note from someone seeking help, because he said he was a captive in a Chinese prison factory…

The Week in New York Theater News

BroadwayCon confetti at opening musical in 2016

BroadwayCon confetti at opening musical in 2016

BroadwayCon faces dispute with Actors Equity Association

One week before one week before the second annual theater fan convention “organizers have hit a snag: a labor dispute with the Actors’ Equity Association, who has asked its members not to perform, or even rehearse, for the event until an agreement is reached.”

Schedule of events for BroadwayCon, Jan 27 – 29

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A report in The Hill suggests that the Trump Administration is looking to privatize PBS, and eliminate entirely the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Broadway’s Musical Deluge “Nineteen new musicals and revivals have opened or are scheduled to open through April 27, the cut-off for Tony Award eligibility. That’s the biggest tally since 1980-81”

“Morning in America, Nov 9, 9 a.m.” 1-minute monologues in response to election Feb 18,19 Primary Stages at Cherry Lane

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Seasons of Love, a tribute to Rent at The Cutting Room.
The concert will include songs from the musical, as well as stories from former cast members.

Watch: Rebecca Naomi Jones: Taking a Break from Musicals

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David Bowie’s Unfinished musical

“As we left the restaurant, David’s assistant said, “I know I don’t have to tell you to keep this project a secret.” To which I replied, “Do you really think a musical about an alien, a dead Bob Dylan, and the work of Emma Lazarus is an idea someone is likely to steal?””

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“Roe” by Lisa Loomer

 Can a Play Influence the Abortion Debate?

Saturday Night Live spoofed Kellyanne Conway’s ambition with a parody of Chicago the musical. Some would call this especially apt, since Orwellyan Conway murders the truth.

Anti-Inauguration Plans. Hamilton Star Casting? The Week in NY Theater

 

The story of Inauguration Day, which arrives this Friday, has become almost as much about culture as politics. The list of performers who declined an invitation to perform at official Inauguration ceremonies certainly exceeds the list of those who accepted – and several, including Tony winner Jennifer Holliday and Springsteen tribute musicians the B Street Band, first accepted and then, after getting flack for their decision, reversed themselves and withdrew.

Meanwhile, artists are behind many Anti-Inauguration activities, such as the Writers Resist demonstration sponsored by Pen America in front of the main branch of the New York Public Library. Theater artists are most prominently involved in the Ghostlight Project on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. outside theaters in all 50 states and Washington D.C.

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Today is the start of Broadway Week, two tickets for the price of one.

Week in New York Theater Reviews

Laura Osnes and Will Swenson

Laura Osnes and Will Swenson

Blueprint Specials

In the first public performance of the four surviving musicals commissioned by the U.S. Army during World War II to boost morale among the troops, “Blueprint Specials” could not be more deftly staged, from the creation of a pop-up theater on the hangar of an actual World War II aircraft carrier (the Intrepid, now a museum) to the casting of both bona fide Broadway stars (Will Swenson, Laura Osnes) and active duty military officers and Armed Forces veterans.

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Mata Hari

We first see Mata Hari in a French prison condemned to death for espionage. The most surprising aspect of her situation in this work is not that her jailer is a nun, Sister Leonide, who swears and smokes. It is that the title character, portrayed by Tina Mitchell, doesn’t sing. That seems unusual for an opera,

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Secondary Dominance

“Secondary Dominance” is a compelling example of my long-held belief that nearly any endeavor, no matter how awful it sounds in theory, can wind up wonderful if it’s done well enough by passionate, creative and talented people.

Sarah Small calls her piece a “multimedia concert in 13 micro movements.” It is an hour long, without a discernible plot or point, without even discernible words in English, and filled with enough familiar avant-garde tropes to keep your newly arrived hipster happy for months…

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Latin Standards

“Latin Standards,” which is Marga Gomez’s 12th solo show — and, she tells us, her “final farewell concert” — is a hilarious memoir, part of this year’s Under The Radar festival. “I’ve been under the radar for 30 years,” she says, after introducing herself as Cuban, Puerto Rican and lesbian: “I don’t want to surprise any out-of-towners….Mike Pence could be here.”

But more than a stand-up routine of topical humor, the show is a coming-of-age tale that pays touching tribute to her father, who went by the stage name Willy Chevalier. A singer, songwriter, impresario, and comedian, Chevalier (born Willy Gomez) was a fixture in the Latin nightclub circuit in New York of the 1950s and 60’s.

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Time of Women

“Time of Women,” a play in the Under the Radar festival based on the true story of three women journalists and activists imprisoned by the Belarusian dictatorship for protesting the fraudulent presidential elections of 2010, differs from most of the previous works by the Belarus Free Theatre that I’ve seen in New York. There is no extensive dance-like movement or elaborate use of theatrical metaphor… But in its own way, “Time of Women” is just as powerful, or even, given the timing, even more so.

Week in New York Theater News

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The Tony Awards, held at the Beacon Theatre last year, returns to Radio City Music Hall for the June 11, 2017 broadcast. Nominations will be announced on May 2.

James Monroe Iglehart

James Monroe Iglehart

Genie comes to Hamilton! James Iglehart, Tony winner for (and the best thing about) Aladdin,  will play Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson starting in April.

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Meanwhile, in the Chicago production of Hamilton, Wayne Brady has been cast as Aaron Burr, prompting Chicago Sun-Times critic Hedy Weiss to write:

“It’s not as if the show — like many productions playing on Broadway in recent years — needs a celebrity to generate interest or boost ticket sales. …Why did the show’s producers and creative team shift the balance in this show by introducing a high-profile actor into an airtight ensemble of performers who are superbly talented yet far from household names? And why, given all the talk about how much they admire the Chicago theater scene, have these same people not drawn on Chicago’s fine stable of actors for any major role?”

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RIP Broadway and ballet photographer Martha Swope, February 22, 1928 – January 12, 2017

(L-R) Director Hal Prince & composer Stephen Sondheim in a rehearsal shot fr. the Broadway musical "Merrily We Roll Along".

(L-R) Director Hal Prince & composer Stephen Sondheim in a rehearsal shot fr. the Broadway musical “Merrily We Roll Along”.

15 pictures by Martha Swope from 1957 to 1994.

Jennifer Holliday singing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" in a scene from the Broadway production of the musical "Dreamgirls".

Jennifer Holliday singing “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” in a scene from the Broadway production of the musical “Dreamgirls”.

Lisa Kron and Daniel Zaitchik have been awarded the 2017 Kleban Prizes for writing in musical theater. … Kron, 55, the book writer for the Tony winning Fun Home, won for most promising musical theater librettist. Zaitchik, 36, won for most promising musical theater lyricist.

NYC is giving $2 million to increase diversity to 11 theaters and theater organizations. Recipients: BAM, BRIC, Epic Theatre Ensemble, Harlem Stage, MTC, New York Theatre Workshop, Roundabout, Teatro, TBTB (Theatre Breaking Through Barriers), TDF

Khris Davis and Will Pullen as friends who wind up in prison.

Khris Davis and Will Pullen as friends who wind up in prison.

The Sweat Broadway cast will be largely intact from Off-Broadway (Only one of the nine may not b come along in the transfer.) The play opens March 26

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Tyne Daly to star in Jerry Herman’s 1969 musical Dear World (based on Madwoman of Chaillot) Feb 25-March 5, York Theatre.

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The Greatest Show on Earth will be no more. Ringling Bros Barnun and Bailey Circus is shutting down in May after 146 years.

 

The Big Apple Circus, the 38-year-old non-profit that has provided family-friendly entertainment on tour around the U.S. has announced it will be selling off its assets.

 

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory “is part of an ambitious theater slate at WB, which includes a brewing musical version of “Beetlejuice” — recently seen in New York in a reading directed by Alex Timbers and starring Chris Fitzgerald (“Waitress”) — as well as a “Night Shift” musical and a play adaptation of “Dog Day Afternoon” penned by Pulitzer-winner Stephen Adly Guirgis” – Variety

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The Humans ends its run in NY . Thanks Stephen Karam and cast for proving a straight play that matters can make it on Broadway

Reading List

Inside The Front Page state-of-the art look (words, photographs, videos) of what it takes to put on The Front Page each night. – The Washington Post

Breaking records ... The Lion King, Wicked and Hamilton.

Broadway Blockbusters: Why Theater’s at an All-time High – The Guardian

Five Predictions for the Theater in 2017 – . (e.g. 3. Introspective Theater Is Out, Political Theater Is In) – Theater Mania

Originality versus the Arts

“In the last century, originality has killed one once-flourishing art form after another, by replacing variation within shared artistic conventions to rebellion against convention itself.” – The Smart Set

Northern Kunqu Opera TheatreÕs Victory on Luding Bridge, part of the 2016 Shanghai China International Arts Festival.

Northern Kunqu Opera TheatreÕs Victory on Luding Bridge, part of the 2016 Shanghai China International Arts Festival.

Bridging Cultures at China’s Shanghai International Arts Festival – American Theatre Magazine