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

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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

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

Amélie Review: Phillipa Soo to the rescue

Adam Chanler-Berat and Phillipa Soo in Amélie

Judging from the last few minutes of “Amélie,” when the two adorable eccentrics Amélie and Nino finally kiss, the new musical feels like a charming and almost traditional romantic comedy, especially since the leads are portrayed by two of Broadway’s most appealing and talented young stars, both of whom have names that it takes practice to spell correctly — Phillipa Soo and Adam Chanler-Berat.

But the first 90 minutes or so of “Amélie,” an adaptation of the 2001 French movie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, are a full-out exercise in whimsy. Indeed, before “Amélie” even begins, the curtain comes alive with the random flittering of little birds, bunnies and butterflies. The animation is subtle and endearing, but I suppose I could have taken it as a warning. The last time I remember seeing such a wonderfully animated Broadway curtain was at the 2011 musical Wonderland, an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland that failed to win over critics or the public, and closed after a month.

“Amélie” features a fine cast; clever, playful design; and a pleasing if unmemorable pop score. It also features Fluffy the singing goldfish, a plaster Garden Gnome come to life, (a character impersonating) Elton John singing to Amelie as if she were Princess Diana, a café full of lovelorn eccentrics, and Soo/Amelie disguising herself at times as a nun and as Zorro. Much of this was in the movie as well, but there the colorful characters and fanciful subplots all felt part of the enchanting if ironic swirl on screen (underscored  by composer Yann Tiersen bouncy French soundtrack full of accordion and mandolin.)  The stage at the Walter Kerr, by contrast, feels crowded with details, distractions and digressions that are sometimes hard to follow, even though the characters take turns narrating; saying things like “Her true destiny confirmed,Amélie decides to celebrate her new life by daydreaming alone in her apartment.” (It very much helps to have seen the movie.) The musicalized vignettes are often presented like children’s theater run amok. “Amélie” the musical has a shorter running time than “Amélie” the movie, but it feels longer.

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

Like the movie, the musical begins with Amélie as a child (here portrayed winningly by Savvy Crawford), being raised by a cold-fish physician father who only touches her when he gives her an annual physical, and a neurotic mother who insists on homeschooling her daughter, which means she is kept isolated from children her own age. On an educational trip to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Amelie’s mother is killed when a Belgian tourist commits suicide by jumping off the cathedral and landing on top of her.

The adult Amelie moves to Paris and, five years later, is working as a waitress in Montmartre.

The upbringing we just witnessed seems to have turned her into a loner, who is unable to form intimate relationships, and who lives largely in her imagination. After the death of Princess Di, she imagines herself as the Princess (hence the fantasy with Elton John), and sees herself assuming Diana’s legacy by performing kindnesses for strangers. This is where all the side stories kick in. A blind beggar objects when Amelie drops a coin in his cup because “It’s after 5; I’m not working,” but she eventually wins him over by her vivid descriptions of the street life. Lucien loves his figs, seeing the vegetables as almost human, so Amelie sets one of the figs up with a date. (Get it?) Above all, she serves as a secret matchmaker for the denizens of the café.

Amélie first encounters Nino in a train station on her way to one of her rescue missions. Nino is kneeling in front of a photobooth collecting the discarded photographs on the ground, and she trips over him. He’s an artist, you see, although he works as a clerk in a porn shop to make a living (which is one of the things that probably makes “Amelie” inappropriate for children.)

Thus begins, more or less, their romance — long-developing, much-interrupted, in which Amélie spends much of her time running away from him. My favorite song of the two dozen in the show, “A Better Haircut,” – tuneful, clever and energetic – occurs when Nino, through a series of odd events, winds up on Nino’s instruction at her café, where her workers and customers confront him about his intentions. The ensemble sings:

You might be a lover for the ages
but can you prove that you
are not highly contagious

Finally, he responds that there are no guarantees, and

I understand she may not even feel the same
[but]
I love her and I don’t know her name

This is near the end of the musical and Nino and Amélie have not really even had a conversation with one another.

So perhaps their love affair is unrealistic, but certainly more realistic than the talking goldfish, and also fully in keeping with romantic comedy convention. Besides, many a theatergoer has already fallen in love with Phillipa Soo. Straight out of Juilliard, she was cast at age 22 as Natasha in “Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812”, to great acclaim, but left that show before it transferred to Broadway in order to originate the role of Eliza in “Hamilton.” It might be difficult to find anybody who would say that her performance in the role she originates in “Amelie” is as wondrous as the ones she originated in “The Great Comet” or “Hamilton,” but it puts her on stage where she belongs, and where I suspect she will be from now on – front and center.

Amélie

Walter Kerr Theater

Book by Craig Lucas; Music by Daniel Messé; Lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messé; Musical staging and choreography by Sam Pinkleton

Directed by Pam MacKinnon

Scenic Design by David Zinn; Costume Design by David Zinn; Lighting Design by Jane Cox and Mark Barton; Sound Design by Kai Harada; Projection Design by Peter Nigrini; Puppet Design by Amanda Villalobos; Hair and Wig Design by Charles G. LaPointe;

Cast: Phillipa Soo as Amélie, Adam Chanler-Berat as Nino,David Andino as Blind Beggar, Garden Gnome, Anchorperson; Randy Blair as Hipolito, Belgian Tourist; Heath Calvert as Lucin; Adrien Wells as Mysterious Man; Alison Cimmet as Amandine,Philomene; Savvy Crawford as Young Amélie; Manoel Felciano as Raphael,Bretodeau; Harriett D. Foy as Suzanne; Alyse Alan Louis as Georgette, Sylvie , Collignon’s Mother; Maria-Christina Oliveras as Gina;Tony Sheldon as Collignon, Dufayel; Paul Whitty as Joseph, Fluffy, Collignon’s Father. Swings: Emily Afton, Trey Ellett, Destinee Rea and Jacob Keith Watson. Understudies: Emily Afton (Amélie), Audrey Bennett (Young Amélie), Alyse Alan Louis (Amélie), Jacob Keith Watson (Nino) and Paul Whitty (Collignon, Dufayel)

Running time: 110 minutes, no intermission.

Tickets: $79.50 to $199.50

The Play That Goes Wrong: Review, Pics

Before the play-within-the-play begins, its director apologizes for “the box office mix-up,” expressing hope that “the 617 of you affected will enjoy our little murder mystery just as much as you would have enjoyed Hamilton.” That’s the most sophisticated joke – indeed one of the few verbal ones — in this silly slapstick backstage farce that has improbably opened on Broadway.
Audiences may indeed enjoy The Play That Goes Wrong….if not as much as Hamilton, perhaps, surely as much as Noises Off, which it resembles, minus the plates of sardines nor anything approaching that play’s cleverness. And I say this having called Noises Off, when it had its second Broadway revival last year, little more than The Three Stooges with a British accent.

Click on any photograph by Jeremy Daniel to see it enlarged.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene 

 

Miss Saigon: Review, pics

The first Broadway revival of Miss Saigon is being marketed as the return of a classic. But, if the show has become an undeniable fan favorite, the production’s impressive visual spectacle, lively staging and crowd-pleasing vocal calisthenics cannot completely mask a script that leans heavily on emotional manipulation and one-dimensional storytelling.

Full review in DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Matthew Murphy or Michael Le Poer Trench to see it enlarged.

Broadway Originals of This Season’s Revivals

Below are scenes from the original productions of the 11 Broadway plays and musicals that are being revived, for the second, fifth, or 16th time, this season on Broadway.

Click on any photograph below to learn details of each show, organized more or less chronologically by the opening date of the original production.

For details on the revivals, check out Broadway 2016-2017 Preview Guide

Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly: First Pic

The first production photograph of Bette Midler as the 15th Dolly Gallagher Levi on Broadway,  in the fifth Broadway production of “Hello, Dolly,” which is scheduled to begin preview performances  Wednesday, March 15, and officially open on Thursday, April 20, 2017.

 

 

Come From Away on Broadway: Review, Video and Pics

“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. The production has gained fans for its foot-stomping Celtic-flavored music, the tight ensemble work of its 12-member cast, and its heartwarming view of humanity, as it’s traveled from La Jolla to Seattle to D.C. to Toronto. But now that it’s in New York, it has to deal with people like me.

As I wrote on the 15th anniversary of September 11th,I was across the street from the Twin Towers on the morning of September 11, 2001 when they were attacked. When an out-of-town friend visiting New York recently bought me a ticket to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, I couldn’t bring myself to go.

So I was worried that Come from Away would, in contemporary parlance, be triggering. But the exact opposite occurred. The Canadian song writing team of Irene Sankoff and David Hein are so eager to please that Come From Away keeps a safe distance from the horror of 9/11.

Come From Away 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, but it will certainly be seen that way. 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

Full review at D.C. Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Matthew Murphy to see it enlarged.

The Glass Menagerie with Sally Field: Review and Pics

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….

The absence of a display on stage of the glass animal figurines that give the play its title reflects the minimalist set at the elegant Belasco Theater…The play unfolds on a bare stage, with just a table and a few chairs…

Sally Field… is angry, bitter and no-nonsense. When she recalls the 17 gentleman callers of her youth, she is not immersing herself in the fantasy world of her genteel Southern upbringing, she is full of resentment for having chosen the wrong beau to marry, the long-absent father of her children

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Julieta Cervantes to see it enlarged.