Six Degrees of Separation: Broadway Review, Pics

Near the end of Six Degrees of Separation, Allison Janney, portraying the first rich white victim of a young black con man, tells her husband that she doesn’t want to turn the experience into an anecdote, “with no teeth and a punch line you’ll mouth over and over for years to come.” But it was an anecdote that John Guare heard from friends, reportedly at a dinner party, that inspired him to write Six Degrees of Separation in the first place, and his 1990 play, now being revived on Broadway for the first time, in fact feels like the theatrical equivalent of a dinner party anecdote. It is funny – sometimes very funny — well crafted, coated with a patina of sparkling sophistication, even at times pointed and almost poignant. It’s an enjoyable entertainment. But it does not add up to the significant experience that Allison Janney’s character feels. And, while the play touches on such matters as race and class and the struggle for connection in modern life, it does not offer the profound insights that the playwright evidently intends.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged.
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Frozen Cast. Sound Tonys Restored. Rebecca Saga Returns…in Court. Week in NY Theater

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

The Week in Theater Awards

Sound design Tony categories reinstated for next year

 

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

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

2017 Drama League Nominations

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

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

Indecent

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

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

The Little Foxes

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

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

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

Anastasia

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

Andy Karl

Groundhog Day

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

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

Daniel’s Husband

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

Gabriel Ebert and Harvey Fierstein

Gently Down the Stream

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

The Week in New York Theater News

Rebecca logo

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

Some history on The Rebecca Saga:

Rebecca Producer: I was duped, I was raped

The Weirdness of Rebecca

The (would-be) stars of Rebecca speak out

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Outer Critics Circle Nominations

outercriticscirclelogo

“Anastasia” and “Hello, Dolly!” lead in the number of nominations for the 2017 Outer Critics Circle Awards, with 13 and 10 respectively, followed by “The Band’s Visit” and “Come From Away,” each with seven.  The winners will be announced on Monday, May 8th

Outer critics announce

Danny Burstein and Jane Krakowski announce the nominations

OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY PLAY

A Doll’s House, Part 2

Indecent

Oslo

Sweat

OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY MUSICAL

Anastasia

A Bronx Tale

Come From Away

Groundhog Day

Holiday Inn

OUTSTANDING NEW OFF-BROADWAY PLAY

If I Forget

Incognito

A Life

Linda

Love, Love, Love

OUTSTANDING NEW OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL

The Band’s Visit

Hadestown

Himself and Nora

Kid Victory

Spamilton

 

OUTSTANDING BOOK OF A MUSICAL

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)

Terrence McNally Anastasia

Itamar Moses The Band’s Visit

Chazz Palminteri A Bronx Tale

Danny Rubin Groundhog Day

Irene Sankoff & David Hein Come From Away

OUTSTANDING NEW SCORE

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)

Stephen Flaherty & Lynn Ahrens Anastasia

Alan Menken & Glenn Slater A Bronx Tale

Tim Minchin Groundhog Day

Irene Sankoff & David Hein Come From Away

David Yazbek The Band’s Visit

OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A PLAY

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)

The Front Page

Jitney

The Little Foxes

Othello

The Price

OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)

Finian’s Rainbow

Hello, Dolly!

Miss Saigon

Sunset Boulevard

Sweeney Todd

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A PLAY

Lila Neugebauer The Wolves

Jack O’Brien The Front Page

Daniel Sullivan The Little Foxes

Rebecca Taichman Indecent

Kate Whoriskey Sweat

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL

Christopher Ashley Come From Away

David Cromer The Band’s Visit

Darko Tresnjak Anastasia

Matthew Warchus Groundhog Day

Jerry Zaks Hello, Dolly!

OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHER

Andy Blankenbuehler Bandstand

Warren Carlyle Hello, Dolly!

Savion Glover Shuffle Along

Kelly Devine Come From Away

Denis Jones Holiday Inn

OUTSTANDING SET DESIGN

(Play or Musical)

Alexander Dodge Anastasia

Nigel Hook The Play That Goes Wrong

Mimi Lien Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Scott Pask The Little Foxes

Douglas W. Schmidt The Front Page

OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN

(Play or Musical)

Linda Cho Anastasia

Susan Hilferty Present Laughter

Santo Loquasto Hello, Dolly!

Ann Roth Shuffle Along

Catherine Zuber War Paint

OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN

(Play or Musical)
Christopher Akerlind Indecent

Donald Holder Anastasia

Natasha Katz Hello, Dolly!

Bradley King Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Kenneth Posner War Paint

OUTSTANDING PROJECTION DESIGN

(Play or Musical)
Duncan McLean Privacy

Jared Mezzocchi Vietgone

Benjamin Pearcy for 59 Productions Oslo

Aaron Rhyne Anastasia

Tal Yarden Indecent

OUTSTANDING SOUND DESIGN

(Play or Musical)
Gareth Fry & Pete Malkin The Encounter

Gareth Owen Come From Away

Nicholas Pope Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Matt Stine Sweeney Todd

Nevin Steinberg Bandstand

OUTSTANDING ORCHESTRATIONS

Doug Besterman Anastasia

Larry Blank Holiday Inn

Bill Elliott & Greg Anthony Rassen Bandstand

Larry Hochman Hello, Dolly!

Jamshied Sharifi The Band’s Visit

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A PLAY

Daniel Craig Othello

Michael Emerson Wakey, Wakey

Kevin Kline Present Laughter

David Oyelowo Othello

David Hyde Pierce A Life

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A PLAY

Janie Dee Linda

Sally Field The Glass Menagerie

Allison Janney Six Degrees of Separation

Laura Linney The Little Foxes

Laurie Metcalf A Doll’s House, Part 2

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

Christian Borle Falsettos

Nick Cordero A Bronx Tale

Andy Karl Groundhog Day

David Hyde Pierce Hello, Dolly!

Tony Shalhoub The Band’s Visit

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Christy Altomare Anastasia

Christine Ebersole War Paint

Katrina Lenk The Band’s Visit

Patti LuPone War Paint

Bette Midler Hello, Dolly!

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY

Michael Aronov Oslo

Danny DeVito The Price

Nathan Lane The Front Page

Richard Thomas The Little Foxes

Richard Topol Indecent

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY

Johanna Day Sweat

Jayne Houdyshell A Doll’s House, Part 2

Katrina Lenk Indecent

Nana Mensah Man From Nebraska

Cynthia Nixon The Little Foxes

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

John Bolton Anastasia

Jeffry Denman Kid Victory

Gavin Creel Hello, Dolly!

Shuler Hensley Sweet Charity

Andrew Rannells Falsettos

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Kate Baldwin Hello, Dolly!

Stephanie J. Block Falsettos

Jenn Colella Come From Away

Caroline O’Connor Anastasia

Mary Beth Peil Anastasia

OUTSTANDING SOLO PERFORMANCE

Ed Dixon Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose

Marin Ireland On the Exhale

Sarah Jones Sell / Buy / Date

Judith Light All the Ways to Say I Love You

Simon McBurney The Encounter

JOHN GASSNER AWARD

(Presented for an American play, preferably by a new playwright)

Jaclyn Backhaus Men on Boats

Sarah DeLappe The Wolves

Paola Lázaro Tell Hector I Miss Him

Qui Nguyen Vietgone

Bess Wohl Small Mouth Sounds

Nominations Talley for 3 or more:

 

Anastasia – 13; Hello, Dolly! – 10; The Band’s Visit – 7; Come From Away – 7; Indecent – 6; The Little Foxes – 6; Groundhog Day – 5; A Bronx Tale – 4; The Front Page – 4; War Paint – 4; Bandstand – 3; A Doll’s House – 3; Holiday Inn – 3; Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 – 3; Oslo – 3; Sweat – 3

Celebrating its 67th season, the Outer Critics Circle is an association focused on New York theater, with members from more than 90 newspapers, magazines, websites, radio and television stations, and theater publications in the United States and abroad.

Anastasia on Broadway: Review, Video, Photographs

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

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Matthew Murphy to see it enlarged

Groundhog Day Musical Review: Indestructible Andy Karl, From Jerk to Jack-of-all-Trades

So there was Andy Karl, the star of “Groundhog Day,” on stage in what’s supposed to be a seduction scene, but he was proudly showing off the elaborate black knee-brace on his bare outstretched leg, sticking a glass of Scotch on top of it. The brace was the only visible sign of the accident that injured Karl three days before the opening, causing him to miss several performances on doctor’s orders. But here he was back again in spectacular form, adding this cheeky bit of improvisation in an inventive, energetic and wholly winning performance that is the main reason to see this musical adaptation of the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray.
Like the movie, the musical tells the story of TV weatherman Phil Connors who, in a metaphysical twist, is suddenly forced to relive over and over again a single day, Groundhog Day, February 2, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, an actual small town that turns Groundhog Day into an annual celebration. That celebration is built around a groundhog named Phil, who either sees his shadow or doesn’t, thus predicting whether spring will come six weeks early.
It’s not as easy to predict who will like “Groundhog Day,” a musical built around Andy Karl as Phil Connors, despite the Olivier Awards for Best Musical and Best Lead Male performance that the show received in London.
The story, with a book by Danny Rubin, who co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with the late Harold Ramis, is fairly faithful to a movie that I love, and that I have watched, um, repeatedly. Yet the translation to the stage presents logistical problems that the theatrical team solves with only varying degrees of success. The score by Tim Minchin, best known for Matilda, is full of clever, saucy lyrics and music that ranges from rock to jazz to country to funk to folk to lovely ballads. Yet some of these original songs seem inserted jukebox style rather than flowing organically from the action. Director Matthew Warchus has assembled a 20-member supporting cast comprised mostly of reliable Broadway regulars, and hired the same exuberant choreographer Peter Darling and the same design team that wowed audiences at Matilda, including Paul Kieve, a master of special effects. Yet supporting cast, choreographer and designers are sometimes employed in what one can describe as cartoon extravaganzas – technically impressive fast footwork and flashy stage effects that fill both eyes and ears but reach neither mind nor heart (nor funnybone!) All I can say about “Groundhog Day” without ambivalence is that Andy Karl’s performance is one that nobody should miss.

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


It’s intriguing to see the evolution of Karl’s reaction to yet another repeated day in Punxsutawney – shocked, hostile, destructive, hedonistic, suicidal, resigned…until finally, he becomes enlightened: He takes the time to learn speak French, play piano, recite the almanac…and to learn about the lives of the individual townspeople of Punxsutawney, and to care about them.
The creative team makes a show of caring about the townspeople too; the most obvious example is their giving solo songs to people Phil has treated dismissively — Nancy (Rebecca Faulkenberry), a beautiful blonde who feels doomed to being mistreated by men ( “Playing Nancy”), and to Ned Ryerson (John Sanders), Phil’s nerdy high school classmate who now sells insurance (“Night Will Come.”) In and of themselves, these are lovely songs, but they are not enough to turn the characters from Phil’s cartoony adjuncts into people we feel we know.
The one character who gets her full due, while also serving as one of Phil’s foil, is the one portrayed sympathetically by Barrett Doss — Rita, the associate producer who has accompanied him on the trip to Punxsutawney from their home studio (which is apparently in Ohio.) A highlight of the musical is the scenes that chronicle Phil’s courtship of Rita. On each first date he does something that makes her slap him in the face, but day after day, he tries to fix his faux-pas of the previous first date.
In “One Day,” one of Rita’s several songs, we see her ambivalence towards even the possibility of love:

One day, some day, my prince may come
but it doesn’t seem likely
and even if he came and he liked me
it’s likely
he’d be
not quite
my type

The song continues, after a scene in which Phil asks what she wants in a man. She sings:

He’ll be tender but tough, and smart but not smug
and attentive but not fawning and he’ll smell good in the morning
and he’ll dance.

Phil interrupts: “This is a guy we’re talking about, right?”

This mix of mockery and heart was central to the success of the movie, a tone it navigated with great skill. The musical is not always as successful in doing so.
As in the movie, there is a series of scenes in which Phil, driven almost mad by the day’s repetition, tries to kill himself. At one point, he electrocutes himself with a toaster in a bathtub, and we instantly see him wake up the next morning in bed — one of the several terrific stage effects designed by Paul Kieve. But we also see ensemble members commit suicide in a macabre array of ways, while Karl sings a Minchin song entitled Hope:

Never give up hope
Never let yourself be defeated. if you tried it once, you can try again

The problem here is that the song is a soaring, tuneful ballad, and rather than funny, as the juxtaposition is surely meant to be, it comes off as confused and tasteless.

It must be said that Karl’s performance is untouched by this occasional tonal dissonance. He manages the transition from cynicism to sentiment credibly. He is also able to juggle admirably the comedy, romance and demanding physicality of the role. In doing so, Andy Karl establishes himself as a leading man in a way that his eight previous turns on Broadway have not, as good as they were; his last two were as Rocky Balboa in Rocky and the muscle-headed boy-toy in On The Twentieth Century.
Karl also drives home the most important themes of “Groundhog Day,” which resemble those of “Our Town,” albeit nearly overshadowed by state-of-the-art Broadway stagecraft — the everyday is wondrous if you take the time to pay attention; nobody takes the time to pay attention.

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 Preview the score

Groundhog Day
August Wilson Theater
Book by Danny Rubin, based on the screenplay by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis; Music and lyrics by Tim Minchin
Directed by Matthew Warchus. Choreography by Peter Darling. Scenic Design by Rob Howell; Costume Design by Rob Howell; Lighting Design by Hugh Vanstone; Sound Design by Simon Baker; Video Design by Andrzej Goulding; Hair Design by Campbell Young Associates; Make-Up Design by Campbell Young Associates; illusions by Paul Kieve
Cast Andy Karl, Barrett Doss, Rebecca Faulkenberry, John Sanders, Andrew Call, Raymond J. Lee, Heather Ayers, Kevin Bernard, Gerard Canonico, Rheaume Crenshaw, Michael Fatica, Katy Geraghty, Camden Gonzales, Jordan Grubb, Taylor Iman Jones, Tari Kelly, Josh Lamon, Joseph Medeiros, Sean Montgomery, William Parry, Jenna Rubaii, Vishal Vaidya, Travis Waldschmidt and Natalie Wisdom

Running time: 2 hours and 35 minutes, including one intermission.

Tickets: $69.50 to $159. General Rush and digital lottery: $40. Premium: $219

The Little Foxes Review: Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon Alternate Roles in Lillian Hellman’s Tale of Greed

Cynthia Nixon, left, and Laura Linney, as Regina

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

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

I saw it with Laura Linney as Regina and Cynthia Nixon as Birdie, which was the cast on opening night, and thus how the two will be considered by the Tony nominating committee – Linney for best actress in a leading role, Nixon in a supporting role. And they surely will be nominated. In any case, it is the casting I preferred to see, since both actresses can be said to be playing against type.

Click on these photographs by Joan Marcus of the “blue performances” (Laura Linney as Regina) to see them enlarged.

The malevolent heart of “The Little Foxes” belongs to Regina, a juicy role originated by the fabulous Tallulah Bankhead on Broadway, and portrayed by the great Bette Davis in the 1941 film directed by William Wyler. Regina Hubbard Giddens is what you might call a piece of work – coquettish, crafty, manipulative, murderous. The daughter of a store owner who snubbed her and gave his entire inheritance to her two greedy brothers, Regina married Horace Giddens (Richard Thomas) in hopes that he could further her insatiable ambitions. But, though he is a kind-hearted and respectable banker, he has gravely disappointed her, so much so that she has not shared her bed with him for ten years.

As the play begins, it is 1900, Horace has been in a hospital in Baltimore for five months because of heart trouble, and Regina is scheming with her two brothers to land a deal with a Northern industrialist, Mr. Marshall, to build a cotton mill on their plantation.  Regina and her brothers need Horace’s money to make the investment, but he has not replied to their letters. So Regina dispatches his young beloved daughter Alexandra to travel by herself to Baltimore to convince him to come home, indifferent to his feeble condition, wanting only his money.

Laura Linney, an 11-time Broadway veteran (Tony nominated for Time Stands Still) and accomplished screen actress (Oscar-nominated for Kinsey, You Can Count on Me, and The Savages), has in previous roles given off a flower child vibe (she played Mary Ann Singleton in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the Cities miniseries.) It makes her portrayal of Regina all the more impressive – at times calculatedly charming, at other times sarcastic or bitter or venomous, at all times hardened steel.

Cynthia Nixon, a 13-time Broadway veteran who made her Broadway debut at age 14 and won a Tony for Rabbit Hole ,is also an accomplished screen actress (Sex and the City.) In previous roles, her persona has been someone who knows her own mind, who can come off as bossy. Birdie, by contrast, is a delicate soul and music-lover, the one-time belle of an aristocratic family brought down and then bought out by the Hubbard family. She is married to Regina’s brother Oscar, who humiliates and abuses her, as does his brother Ben: “Twenty years ago,” Ben tells Mr. Marshall about Birdie’s family during the dinner party at the start of the play, “we took over their land, and their cotton, and their daughter.” Birdie has become an anxious and insecure drunk. It is to Nixon’s credit that she does not portray Birdie as a skittish woman, who talks too rapidly and too much (which is how I’ve seen other actresses depict the character.) Rather than the foolish woman her husband Oscar accuses her of being, Nixon’s Birdie is a woman with natural enthusiasms, and innate intelligence, who is constantly being beaten down. This makes her victimization all the more upsetting.

Having Linney and Nixon swap parts elevates Birdie in our consideration of the play – she is no longer just a minor character — and I think this makes sense for our era’s heightened sensitivity to women’s degradation. That she is so dismissed by the other characters is the very reason we should not do so ourselves.

Linney and Nixon wouldn’t shine so brightly without a supporting cast full of stand-out performances. Richard Thomas is exactly right as the goodly, dying Horace Giddens. Thomas made his Broadway debut at the age of eight, and has been in a dozen Broadway plays over the past 50 years, yet for a couple of generations he’s still best known as the aspiring writer John-Boy Walton in The Waltons, a saga of a family in Virginia that ran as a TV series in the 1970s and then as a series of TV movies in the 1980s and 1990s. One can almost see his Horace as John-Boy grown old, with life turning out not the way he had hoped. Darren Goldstein, best-known for portraying jerks (Oscar Hodges in The Affair, Calhoun in Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson), here takes it up a few notches with Oscar Hubbard, a blunt, dull, vulgar man who has no discernible redeeming qualities – he even kills animals every day for sport, and then throws their bodies away, while the African-Americans in the area go hungry. Goldstein deserves credit for keeping such a character credible. So does Caroline Stefanie Clay, who portrays Addie, a character who is 180 degrees from Oscar — a kindly black servant who is a fount of wisdom and dignity. Michael McKean, like Thomas nearly enshrined for youthful roles (Laverne and Shirley, This is Spinal Tap), and last on Broadway as J. Edgar Hoover in All The Way, seems to get better and better as he ages. His Ben is a subtle knave, more articulate and intelligent than Oscar, but no less evil. (McKean is also terrific as the mentally ill older brother lawyer Chuck in Better Call Saul, the prequel TV series to Breaking Bad.)

The Little Foxes 1939 nypl.digitalcollections.86f82796-eb02-e6a0-e040-e00a180638c2.001.w

Eugenia Rawls and Tallulah Bankhead The Little Foxes,  Feb 15, 1939.

After rhapsodizing about Tallulah Bankhead in the original Broadway production of “The Little Foxes,” Brooks Atkinson wrote in his review: “It is obviously unfair to discuss Miss Hellman’s new play as if it were a vehicle. Although in my opinion it does not have the general significance she intends, it is an unusually creditable example of the well-made play that is skillfully written and that communicates burning convictions.”

It’s true that Hellman didn’t do nuance. “The Little Foxes” might be admired more if the good characters weren’t quite so saintly and the bad characters so utterly evil. The playwright took the title from the Song of Solomon in the Bible: “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.” But she might as well have called it The Gentle and the Jackals.

But the play’s craftsmanship and its intensity have not diminished in this fifth, fierce, Broadway production (the last in 1997 with Stockard Channing as Regina), enhanced not just by the performances but by Scott Pask’s elegant set and the sumptuous costumes by Jane Greenwood. And I believe the changing times – and these particular times – have invested “The Little Foxes” with greater significance.  The issues of race, class and gender that Hellman weaves into her play are far more at the forefront of our consciousness and concerns now.  (One feels the impact of some seemingly throwaway lines, such as the brothers’ promise to force wages low and prevent any strikes in their mill, and Addie responding to Horace’s promise of leaving her some money: “Don’t you do that, Mr. Horace. A colored woman in a white man’s will! I’d never get it nohow.”) I’ve always been chilled and enthralled when Addie says “there are people who eat the earth” and “there are people who stand around and watch them eat it. Sometimes I think it ain’t right to stand and watch them do it.” Hearing this now, it feels like a timely call to arms.

Click on these photographs by Joan Marcus of the “green performances” (Cynthia Nixon as Regina) to see them enlarged.

The Little Foxes

MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater

Written by Lillian Hellman; Directed by Daniel Sullivan

Set design by Scott Pask, costume design by Jane Greenwood, lighting design by Justin Townsend, sound design by Fitz Patton,

Cast Cynthia Nixon as Regina/Birdie, Laura Linney as Regina/Birdie, Darren Goldstein as Oscar Hubbard, Michael McKean as Ben Hubbard, Richard Thomas as Horace Giddens, David Alford as Mr. Marshall, Michael Benz as Leo Hubbard, Francesca Carpanini as Alexandra Giddens, Caroline Stefanie Clay as Addie and Charles Turner as Cal.

Running time: Two and a half hours, including two 10-minute intermissions

Tickets: $89 to $179

The Little Foxes has been extended to July 2, 2017.

Hello, Dolly with Bette Midler opens

In her first performance in a Broadway musical in 50 years, Bette Midler opens tonight as the 15th Dolly Gallagher Levi on Broadway,  in the fifth Broadway production of “Hello, Dolly.”

The new revival also stars David Hyde Pierce as Horace Vandergelder , Gavin Creel as Cornelius Hackl , and Kate Baldwin as Irene Molloy. Also in the 33-member cast: Taylor Trensch , most recently star of the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and Jennifer Simard, Tony nominee for Disaster.

curtain call

Based on Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker, the 1964 musical features music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and a book by Michael Stewart, both of whom won Tony Awards for the work on the original production, which won eight additional Tonys, including one for Best Musical and one for star Carol Channing

Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly, opened January 16, 1964.

 

ACT 1 Sung By
I Put My Hand In Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi and Company
It Takes A Woman Horace Vandergelder and The Instant Glee Club
Put On Your Sunday Clothes Cornelius Hackl, Barnaby Tucker, Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi, Ambrose Kemper and Ermengarde
Put On Your Sunday Clothes The People of Yonkers
Ribbons Down My Back Irene Molloy
Motherhood Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi, Horace Vandergelder, Irene Molloy, Minnie Fay, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker
Dancing Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi, Cornelius Hackl, Barnaby Tucker, Minnie Fay, Irene Molloy and Dancers
Before the Parade Passes By Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi and Company
ACT 2 Sung By
Penny in My Pocket Horace Vandergelder
Elegance Irene Molloy, Cornelius Hackl, Minnie Fay and Barnaby Tucker
The Waiters’ Galop Rudolph and Waiters
Hello, Dolly! Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi, Rudolph, Waiters and Cooks
The Contest Ambrose Kemper, Ermengarde, Irene Molloy, Cornelius Hackl, Minnie Fay, Barnaby Tucker and the Contestants
It Only Takes a Moment Cornelius Hackl, Irene Molloy, Prisoners and Policeman
So Long Dearie Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi
Hello, Dolly! Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi and Horace Vandergelder
Finale Company

2017 Drama League Nominations

Below is the full list of the nominations for the 2017 Drama League Awards, which select winners in five competitive categories, and also give special awards. The winners will be announced May 19, 2017,  at a ceremony at the Marriott Marquis with hosts Will Swenson and Audra McDonaldswenson and mcdonald;

THE DISTINGUISHED PERFORMANCE AWARD
Denée Benton, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Reed Birney, Man From Nebraska
Cate Blanchett, The Present
Ato Blankson-Wood, The Total Bent
Christian Borle, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Falsettos
Leon Addison Brown, Master Harold and the Boys
Kate Burton, Present Laughter
Daniel Craig, Othello
Johanna Day, Sweat
Marcia DeBonis, Small Mouth Sounds
Danny DeVito, The Price
Jennifer Ehle, Oslo
Carson Elrod, The Liar
Michael Emerson, Wakey Wakey
Sally Field, The Glass Menagerie
Sutton Foster, Sweet Charity
Gideon Glick, Significant Other
Josh Groban, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Harriet Harris, The Roads To Home
Corey Hawkins, Six Degrees of Separation
Allison Janney, Six Degrees of Separation
Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen
Sarah Jones, Sell/Buy/Date
Andy Karl, Groundhog Day
Kevin Kline, Present Laughter
John Leguizamo, Latin History for Morons
Kecia Lewis, Marie and Rosetta
Judith Light, All The Ways To Say I Love You
Laura Linney, The Little Foxes
Jefferson Mays, Oslo
Simon McBurney, The Encounter
Laurie Metcalf, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Joe Morton, Turn Me Loose
Cynthia Nixon, The Little Foxes
Eva Noblezada, Miss Saigon
Caroline O’Connor, Anastasia
Laura Osnes, Bandstand
Aisling O’Sullivan, The Beauty Queen of Leenane
David Hyde Pierce, A Life and Hello, Dolly!
Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen
Daniel Radcliffe, Privacy
Amy Ryan, Love, Love, Love
Nora Schell, Spamilton
Jeremy Secomb, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Anna Deveare Smith, Notes From The Field
John Douglas Thompson, Jitney and A Doll’s House/The Father
Kate Walsh, If I Forget
Michelle Wilson, Sweat

BetteMidler

Bette Midler

(Note: As Bette Midler is set to receive this year’s Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre Award, the Hello, Dolly! star was considered ineligible for the Distinguished Performance Award category.)

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION OF A BROADWAY OR OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL
Améie
Anastasia
Bandstand
Come From Away
Dear Evan Hansen
Groundhog Day
Hadestown
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Ride the Cyclone
War Paint

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION OF A BROADWAY OR OFF-BROADWAY PLAY
A Dolls House, Part 2
Caught
Everybody
If I Forget
Indecent
A Life
The Play That Goes Wrong
Sweat
Tell Hector I Miss Him
The Wolves

OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A BROADWAY OR OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL
Cats
Falsettos
Hello, Dolly!
Miss Saigon
Sunset Boulevard
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Sweet Charity

(Note: At the producers’ request, this season’s revival of Sunday in the Park with George was not considered for award eligibility.)

OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A BROADWAY OR OFF-BROADWAY PLAY
A Doll’s House/The Father
The Beauty Queen of Leenane
Jitney
The Little Foxes
Master Harold and the Boys
Othello
Present Laughter
The Price
Six Degrees of Separation
Troilus and Cressida

The following performers who appeared on the New York stage this season have previously received the Distinguished Performance Award and are therefore ineligible this year: Glenn Close (Sunset Boulevard), Christine Ebersole (War Paint), Harvey Fierstein (Gently Down the Stream), Nathan Lane (The Front Page), Patti LuPone (War Paint), Mary-Louise Parker (Heisenberg), and Liev Schreiber (Les Liaisons Dangereuses).

As previously announced, this year’s Drama League Awards will present:

Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre Award: Bette Midler

Unique Contributon to the Theater Award: animal trainer Bill Berloni

Founders Award for Excellence in Directing: Michael Grief.

 

 

Although founded way back in 1922, this is the least regarded of the major New York theater awards because the voters are any audience members who join the Drama League, and because there is a single performing category (“distinguished performance”) with some 50 nominees but only one winner.

The State of Gay Love? Daniel’s Husband and Gently Down The Stream Reviews

The gay couples at the heart of two separate plays currently running Off-Broadway have been together for years, and yet, neither are married because one partner in each of the relationships doesn’t want to be, apparently on philosophical grounds:

“Who ever said we were meant to be legal?” Harvey Fierstein as Beauregard says in “Gently Down The Stream,” a play by Martin Sherman through May 21st at the Public Theater. “ We’re supposed to be outlaws; we’re supposed to be inventing new rules, not imitating all the old conventions, not going backwards.”

“The entire concept of marriage, I find it outdated, musty and fundamentally wrong… The only thing to be gained by gay marriage is the legal stuff,” Matthew Motolongo as Mitchell says in “Daniel’s Husband,” a play by Michael McKeever, in a Primary Stages production through April 28 at the Cherry Lane. “We’ve gone to our lawyer and had all of that taken care of.”

The decision not to get married has unforeseen consequences in both new dramas. Do these plays say anything about the state of love after the nation-wide legalization in 2015 of marriage between two people of the same gender? Or do they say more about the state of gay playwriting?

Click on any photograph by James Leynse to see it enlarged.

“Daniel’s Husband” begins the way so many gay plays have in the 49 years since “Boys in the Band” first opened Off-Broadway – gay friends gathered together making witty banter. At a dinner party in a tastefully appointed home (admirably detailed by set designer Brian Prather), we get to know Mitchell, who makes a living as a gay romance novelist, an odd occupation given his cynicism; and Daniel (Ryan Spahn), his partner of seven years, an architect who clearly likes structure in his life; he does want to get married. Their guests for the evening are Barry (Lou Liberatore), Mitchell’s literary agent and best friend, and Barry’s date, Trip (Leland Wheeler), whom Barry met just a few weeks earlier, one of an endless series of short-lasting Barry boyfriends less than half his age. Trip, 23, has never seen a record album before, and he doesn’t understand Mitchell’s attitude towards marriage.

Almost an hour into the 90-minute running time, “Daniel’s Husband” turns into a different play. Since the second half is fresher and more powerful, I feel comfortable revealing what is obviously meant to be a surprise twist, but shouldn’t be. Daniel gets deathly ill, unable to speak. This winds up putting Mitchell at odds – psychologically, and legally — with Lydia, Daniel’s mother. In the first half of the play, we heard Daniel say that Lydia was a selfish mother, and we saw her during a visit drinking champagne and badmouthing Daniel’s dead father. This was preparation for her becoming the villain in the second half. This is true even though (or maybe in part because) she says: “I’m not the villain in this. There is no villain in this.” But she is made the classic straw man – a character who exists to be knocked down.

Given Mitchell’s explicit arguments against gay marriage in the first half of the play, the turn of events becomes an implicit refutation of Mitchell’s beliefs, a one-sided argument for the necessity of gay people getting married. “Daniel’s Husband” becomes an odd and simplistic cautionary tale. Only the acting under Joe Brancato’s direction saves us from utter authorial strong-arming. Rather than deriving any satisfaction at what we could take as Mitchell’s comeuppance, we are moved by Montelongo’s depiction of Mitchell’s desperate love for Daniel. Similarly, both Anna Holbrook as Lydia the selfish mother and Leland Wheeler as Trip the twink defy the potential for stereotype baked into their roles.

Just as Lydia and Mitchell wind up warring with one another, so do the two halves of the play. Both wars are undermining…and avoidable. Had McKeever begun “Daniel’s Husband” with Daniel’s illness – and shelved the first half, perhaps to be used in a future play – “Daniel’s Husband” might have been a wholly affecting drama.

Click on any photographs by Joan Marcus to see them enlarged.

Like Michael McKeever in “Daniel’s Husband,” playwright Martin Sherman in “Gently Down the Stream” seems to believe that same-sex marriage is important, and that there is some resistance to it from within the gay community that he finds regrettable. But Sherman’s approach is less an argument than a simple explanation for attitudes like Beau’s.

Beau (Harvey Fierstein) is a New Orleans-born piano accompanist who lives as an expatriate American in a London flat lined with books (the elegant set is by Derek McLane.) The play begins in 2001, when Beau, using a new-fangled online dating site, has just hooked up with Rufus (Gabriel Ebert, Tony winner for Matilda, and a veteran of Fierstein’s Casa Valentina.) Rufus is a 28-year-old eccentric, bipolar lawyer. Beau is 62. Beau doesn’t expect this “assignation” to last beyond a day. “I’m old enough to be your ancestor.” Yet it develops into a relationship that we track through some sharp-edge curves over the next 13 years.

“Gently Down the Stream” also has a second track. Rufus is interested – obsessed – with gay history. He doesn’t just ask Beau many questions about the past; he insists on videotaping Beau’s recollections. Much of “Gently Down The Stream” is taken up with these recollections, rather awkwardly inserted monologues about old lovers meeting tragic ends – “I knew it would end badly, because that was just simply the way it was with our lot” — and sad moments in gay history. It turns out that, much like Zelig or Forrest Gump, Beau has a talent for being at the right place at the right time – or, with certain tragic events, the exact wrong place. He was also friends, or at least acquainted, with such gay celebrities as Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, James Baldwin and Larry Kramer, and lesser known but no less intriguing historical figures, like singer Mabel Mercer (Beau was her accompanist.) Add in the references to AIDS and the crystal meth epidemic among gay men, and the play starts to feel like a forced crash course in gay life. There is another rich layer simply in the casting of Harvey Fierstein, who since his Broadway debut as the author and star of Torch Song Trilogy in 1982, has himself become a figure in gay history.

All of Beau’s recounting of both his personal and communal past, much of it morose, offers a bracing explanation for the character’s pessimism about the future. Even the gay moments (in both senses of the word) are laced with melancholy. In one of his monologues, Beau recalls how “gay life, always secret and furtive and forbidden, blossomed” during World War II, and tells the story he heard from a veteran named Sam of a soldier from the hinterlands, temporarily stationed in New York, taking a room at the YMCA to have sex for the first time with another man, and jubilantly singing the nursery rhyme “Row, row, row your boat/gently down the stream” – which had an odd effect:

“…and suddenly from another room, he heard another soldier’s voice, joining in, a very deep baritone, and then from another room, another voice, and, and then the entire Young Men’s Christian Association, including Sam, seemed to be singing, but not just singing, singing a roundelay, everyone remembering their own childhood and the pain of it, and now suddenly this sense of release….Sam said that was the happiest moment of his life. “

But such euphoria ended abruptly, repression returned at the end of the war, and when Beau met Sam, he had become a drunken bum in Rio.

Beau’s experiences, and that of his circle, have bred in him a sense of hopelessness, leading him to self-sabotage. Convinced that the relationship will end badly, as all his others have, Beau rejects Rufus’ marriage proposal, and in effect pushes him away.

Playwright Sherman, whose best-known play, Bent, was about gay inmates of Nazi concentration camps, obviously knows where Beau’s pessimism comes from, but he evidently does not share it. He presents the optimism of a new generation, embodied not just by Rufus, but by the lover that Rufus eventually finds, Harry (a delightful Christopher Sears), a performance artist younger than Rufus. When Harry, in torn jean, black leather, pierced and tattooed full punk regalia, croons the Gershwin’s The Man I Love, there is something so hilarious, charming and touching about it that you begin to share the play’s optimism, even if Beau never does.

It’s been just 14 years since Massachusetts became the first state in the union to legalize same-sex marriage, six years since New York State, and just two since the Supreme Court legalized it in all 50 states – a decision that, many say, the new administration will try to undermine. Surely, nobody would be surprised by the recent study that concludes that married LGBT adults are happier than single ones. But if there’s been enough time to offer some sociological insight, we may have to wait for our dramatists to fashion from this new reality searing dramas with sophisticated insights.

Indecent on Broadway: Review, pics, video

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

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Carol Rosegg to see it enlarged