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.
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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.

Significant Other Review: Dating in the Age of Bridezilla and Marriage Equality

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.

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

 

Gideon Glick, who made his Broadway debut at the age of 18 as Ernst in the original “Spring Awakening,: is delightful as Jordan, as he interacts with his three friends — Kiki (a sassy Sas Goldberg), nervous Vanessa (Rebecca Naomi Jones, who acquits herself expertly in her first non-musical role on Broadway) and kind-hearted Laura (Lindsay Mendez, who is likewise fine in her first non-musical role on Broadway) – and with their significant others, as well as with the men he dates (all portrayed by two actors, John Behlmann and Luke Smith.)

Glick invests the role with just the right notes of comic awkwardness, energy, and warmth, accompanied by a consistent underscoring of melancholy. He makes his character both adorable and irritating. His plaintive arias of loneliness are so masterfully done that the audience applauds them. His accounts of his dates to his friends are as funny as the best stand-up routines, but they are also spot-on, sure to awaken in the audience some embarrassing memories. He obsesses over a new office colleague, Will ( Behlmann), recounting in eloquent detail to his friends Will’s body, based on a four-second look at it when Will emerges from the pool during an office pool party. (There are such things?) After a pleasant but inconsequential date with Will to see a documentary about the Franco-Prussian War, Jordan writes him a gushing e-mail that all three of his friends insist he not send. Jordan’s late-night struggle with himself trying not to send it is a highlight of the play.

Another are his interactions with Laura, making the most of the playwright’s gift for funny dialogue:

LAURA: You have obsessive tendencies, you know you have obse—

JORDAN I hate when you say I have obsessive tendencies.

LAURA But, you do, and I don’t like–

JORDAN No I know I do, but hearing you say I have obsessive

tendencies makes me feel like, like I need to go to the vet and be put down.

I hate being a person. I wish I was a rock, you know? Or anything. A salamander. Dental floss. Rain. ‘Whatever happened to Jordan Berman? Oh, he turned into rain.’

 

Glick has some wonderfully touching scenes with the great Barbara Barrie (who made her debut on Broadway in 1955!) as Jordan’s grandmother. These may at first seem imported from another play. But with her encouraging words to her gay grandson, and her talk of her own losses, the playwright seems subtly trying to establish a parallel between those elderly whose love life has ended because of the death of their spouse, and those gay men whose love life has just begun because marriage equality has only recently become law. Seen this way, the title of Harmon’s play can be read with a second meaning. In a society built around heterosexual pairing, Jordan is the Other.

Significant Other
Booth Theater
Written by Joshua Harmon; Directed by Trip Cullman
Choreographed by Sam Pinkleton; Scenic Design by Mark Wendland; Costume Design by Kaye Voyce; Lighting Design by Japhy Weideman; Sound Design by Daniel Kluger;
Cast: Gideon Glick, Lindsay Mendez, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Barbara Barrie, John Behlmann, Sas Goldberg and Luke Smith
Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with 1 intermission
Tickets: $49 – $147

The Penitent by David Mamet: Review and Pics

The 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 takes on big questions, probing the obligations, contradictions and distinctions between moral, religious and professional codes of conduct…. At the same time, Mamet has structured The Penitent so that information is parceled out in stingy pieces [which] winds up undercutting his thematic explorations.

 

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

 

Click on any photograph by Doug Hamilton to see it enlarged

 

 

 

 

Sunday in the Park with George: Sondheim and Seurat, Gyllenhaal and Ashford

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte - 1884
“Art isn’t easy,” Jake Gyllenhaal as George sings in the fourth Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s “Sunday In the Park with George,” inspired by one of the most popular paintings in the world.
“Sunday” opens tonight at the newly rechristened Hudson Theater, which is both one of the oldest theaters on Broadway (built in 1903), and the newest (presenting its first Broadway show in 49 years.)

If some theatergoers were uneasy with the unusually structured musical when it premiered in 1984, audiences have come around so completely to the art of Stephen Sondheim, that when the characters in Georges Seurat’s painting bow to him in Act II, it seems nearly autobiographical.
Click on any photographs below by Matthew Murphy of the current production to see them enlarged. (Below the photographs, a plot summary by Sondheim himself.)

Stephen Sondheim’s synopsis: “Act One concerns the French painter Georges Seurat (1859-1891) and his creation of Un dimanche apres-midi a l’Ile de la Grande Jatte (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte), which took more than two years to complete…and depicts approximately fifty people in varying perspectives and proportions strolling and relaxing in a public park outside of Paris..Act Two deals with the artistic crisis experienced by his great-grandson, an American conceptual artist in his forties, named George.”e

Presidents, and #NotMyPresident, on Stage

Below is a photo essay of a century’s worth of stage depictions of American presidents.

One thing seems certain about the most uncertain presidency in U.S. history — Donald Trump will be depicted on stage. It’s already been happening. If the best-known caricature of him is on television, both Mike Daisey and Karen Finley  created theater pieces that revolved around Trump the candidate, and even Meryl Streep dressed up as him for a skit at last year’s Public Theater gala.

Today alone, Presidents Day has become #NotMyPresident Day, not just online but on stage, with anti-Trump performances in theaters throughout the nation, such as He’s Our President/He’s Our Problem at La MaMa. Surely some of these will include at least crude caricatures of the 45th president.

We soon will surely see more considered stage portrayals, likely to be satires akin to MacBird rather than “All The Way” (to pick two plays about 36th president LBJ, nearly 50 years apart.) — or “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” about the 7th president,  rather than, say, “Abe Lincoln in Illinois” the best-known of some dozen biographical dramas about the 16th president that have been on Broadway alone, starting with Benjamin Chapin’s Lincoln in 1906. Lincoln has been the subject of more Broadway plays than any other president by far, with George Washington a distant second — although Washington is among the three U.S. presidents (along with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison) currently on the Great White Way in “Hamilton.”

But nearly every one of the 44 presidents has been portrayed on Broadway at one time or another. In 2010, James Monroe (the fifth president) was a character in three separate shows, none of them kind representations: He was an ineffectual character in A Free Man of Color,John Guare’s look at New Orleans in the early 1800’s; the butt of a semi-racy joke in Colin Quinn’s solo showng Story Short: A History of The World in 75 Minutes; and a lascivious fop in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. (In the latter, a rock musical about Jackson’s rise to power, Monroe at least fares better than Martin Van Buren, who is depicted as a two-faced conniver eating a Twinkie.)

Even more obscure presidents such as Rutherford B. Hayes have gotten their moments in the spotlight. Hayes and two other presidents were portrayed by Gene Wilder in “The White House,” a short-lived 1964 play by A. E. Hotchner that crammed in 24 of the presidents between John Adams and Woodrow Wilson.

In honor of Presidents Day, here is a collection of photographs of past presidents of the United States depicted on stage — all but two on Broadway — through the years. Click on any to see it enlarged and read the (sometimes extensive) captions.

 

 

In

In “Five Presidents,” a new play by Richard Cleveland not (yet?) on Broadway, five presidents pay their respects to Richard Nixon at his 1994 funeral. From left, Brit Whittle (Bill Clinton), Mark Jacoby (George H. W. Bush), Steve Sheridan (Ronald Reagan), Martin L’Herault (Jimmy Carter) and John Bolger (Gerald Ford).

Man From Nebraska: Reviews, Pics

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.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene