Holiday Gifts for Theater Lovers 2018

My seventh annual Broadway gift guide below includes links and information on shopping for
theater tickets,
theater subscriptions,
cast recordings,
play scripts, librettos and new and cherished books about the theater
and theater on screen!
I also suggest some souvenirs and knick-knacks intended as tangible reminders of an evanescent experience.

A special recommendation this year: Make sure you visit (in person or online) the Drama Book Shop, which is closing in January after 101 years in business, although they are trying to find a new, more affordable home. (Details in the new and cherished books section.)

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The Thanksgiving Play Review: How Not to Celebrate Thanksgiving

How will you celebrate Thanksgiving? In “The Thanksgiving Play,” billed as a satire and running at Playwrights Horizons through December 2 (though not on Thanksgiving Day), playwright Larissa FastHorse points to some terrible suggestions:

Rewriting the 12 Days of Christmas as the 12 Days of Thanksgiving (“On the first day of Thanksgiving, the natives gave to me…”)

Dressing up as turkeys and singing:
“Two little Injun’s foolin’ with a gun,
One shot t’other and then there was one…”

Having students write letters of apology to the Indians and reading them aloud to each other.

Massacring the residents of a Pequot village and using their severed heads as bowling balls.

The first three are actual suggestions from teacher websites and the like. The fourth occurred on Cape Cod in 1631. All are comically re-enacted and interspersed throughout “The Thanksgiving Play,” along with some true and startling facts about a holiday that even the playwright has admitted she loves.

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In Defense of Kong and Offense at Prom. Moulin Rouge on Broadway. John Kander and Lin-Manuel Miranda team up. #Stageworthy news of the week.

This week in New York theater, I seem to have zigged while others zagged, even when it comes to zazz.
To explain:
1. I don’t completely understand the high level of snark about “King Kong.” ( “Ugh,” Jesse Green in the New York Times in a joint review with Ben Brantley, who wrote ““aaaaaaaaargh.”) Yes, as I think I make clear in my review below, I get that this is not a musical for the ages. But who would expect that from a show about a GIANT GORILLA? The original film was beloved because of its special effects.
2. I don’t completely share the outpouring of affection for “The Prom.” (Sara Holdren calls it “giddy, smart, big-hearted” in her review in New York.) Yes, “The Prom” has its pleasures, among them a fun number entitled “Zazz,” (pictured above), a word that one of the Broadway characters claims Bob Fosse used frequently. But the satire seems aimed not just at the self-regarding theater folk but at the “local yokels,” and the razzmatazz upstages, and thus risks trivializing, the homophobic incident, based on a true story, that is central to the plot. This is not the first time serious issues have been used in Broadway musicals to add some heft to a giddy entertainment, but I didn’t like it when they did that in “Kinky Boots,” “Hairspray,” “Mean Girls,” or “Summer” either.

Kander and Miranda?

The latest #Hamildrop: “Cheering For Me Now,” with lyrics and vocals by Lin-Manuel Miranda and music by John Kander, best known as the composer half of Kander and Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret.. Will this now be a new musical force, Kander and Miranda? It’s certainly mellifluous


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The Prom Review: Divas, Hams and Lesbians in Broadway Satire

“The Prom” is really two musicals in one. One is a funny, knowing backstage comedy, satirizing the self-regard of theater folk. The other is a loud, fast high school musical. What ties them together, somewhat glibly, is a story of homophobia inspired by true events at a high school far from New York.



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What to See on Broadway Thanksgiving Week 2018

Both King Kong and Olaf, the goofy snow man from Frozen, will loom large on Thanksgiving Day — but not on Broadway; neither current musical is one of the four Broadway shows performing on Thursday. (see Thanksgiving Week Broadway schedule below.)

Olaf will be one of the huge balloons hovering over Sixth Avenue during the 92nd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the cast of “King Kong” will be performing a number from the new musical during CBS’s coverage of the parade. (Also performing on CBS: the casts of “Dear Evan Hansen.” and “Head Over Heels.” Performing at the parade itself, broadcast by NBC: “Mean Girls,” “My Fair Lady,” “The Prom,” and “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.”)


both Frozen and King Kong have added a matinee on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving — as have most other Broadway shows. Many have also added a Monday night performance.

Below is the Broadway schedule for Thanksgiving Week, as well as a list of my four favorite shows that have opened this season so far, and another four that are evergreens suitable for young children.

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The Hidden Ones Review: Silent Witnesses to the Darkness

We must be silent, here in this secret attic apartment where two Jewish families are hiding from the Nazis. And so, in “The Hidden Ones,” a spare and chilling immersive theater piece, the seven audience members sit on the bed, or in a corner chair or on a box, and silently witness the cast of seven silently go about their day – sitting around the dining table carefully parceling out the food, tidying up, folding laundry (and silently instructing us to help.) One of the fathers takes two of us into his “study” to help him polish his shot glasses; it seems evident that he does this every day; they are a precious reminder of the possessions now largely lost.
The attic is poorly lit; the “rooms” are divided by hanging sheets that function as walls, doors and curtains, affording only the illusion of privacy, and adding to the atmosphere of dread.
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Thom Pain (based on nothing) starring Michael C. Hall: review and pics

Like a boxer faking out an opponent, Michael C. Hall as Thom Pain plays tricks on the audience in Will Eno’s one-character play….For Thom’s jousts and jabs to feel like something more than random cleverness and intermittent entertainment, the actor must somehow show us an interior life that’s seething, striving, bursting with sadness and anger and resentments that he’s trying to mask.
One might suppose that such seething could come easily to Michael C. Hall, who played a serial killer on cable TV for eight seasons. But Dexter was a doll (the series depicting his murders as morally justified and him as well-meaning.) There is less menace than master of ceremonies in Hall’s portrayal of Pain.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

King Kong Review: Going Apeshit Over a Puppet on Broadway

King Kong is spectacular — those dreamy eyes, that expressive sniffing of his nose, the earthquake of a roar. He is such a singular creature that, like Ann Darrow, the damsel he picks up in his impressively flexible hand, I started feeling protective towards him – and, by extension, toward the Broadway musical that he dominates.
No, “King Kong” didn’t need to be made into a musical. But here it is, and it’s fun.
No, the book is neither “Grapes of Wrath“ (“Apes of Wrath”?) nor “Rocky Horror Show” – neither profound nor campy – and the score isn’t especially memorable. But both deserve a vigorous defense.

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Wild Goose Dreams Review: Two Korean Lonelyhearts Plus Talking Penguin in A Toilet

The heart of Hansol Jung’s play at the Public Theater is the relationship between two lonely, awkward people in South Korea who connect through an online dating site. But the play also features a talking penguin in the toilet. And a North Korean military marching band. And the seven-member chorus singing strange snippets of sound and songs, turning the noise of the Internet — Internet searches, emoticons, instructions and announcements (“Delete,” “Scroll,” “You have no new messages,” “You have no new friends,” “Disconnected”) — into literal noise. And the scenic design by Clint Ramos, which is vivid with graffiti and neon signs in Korean, and columns painted like psychedelic flowers, and old family photographs and new advertising posters, and a bright red runway into the audience that none of the ten-member cast use until the very end.
“Wild Goose Dreams” is cluttered with cleverness, awash with theatrical invention. What makes the play worth seeing, though, is its quieter but in many ways richer aspects – the complexity and pathos of the three central characters.
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Blue Wave on Broadway. #Stageworthy News

In celebration of the Blue Wave – which has grown steadily in the week since Election Day — a silly observation: There have been 51 Broadway shows with “Blue” in the title.

I’m reluctant to point out there have been just about the same number with “Red” in the title. I prefer to think of the shows that had both in the title, though it’s been a while –  the 1898 drama “The Red, White and Blue” and the 1936 Cole Porter musical, Red, Hot and Blue,, starring Ethel Merman, Bob Hope and Jimmy Durante, which introduced the song “It’s De-Lovely” – It’s delightful, it’s delicious,
It’s delectable, it’s delirious….

Not silly: Sample Broadway’s Most Entertaining Shows About Serious Social Issues

Week in Theater below: News of the new Evan Hansen, the full cast of Ain’t Too Proud, Fiddler fiddles on, a video taste of Mary Poppins returns. And: Separated at Birth?

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