Advertisements

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, Review and Pics

The real Donna Summer

Summer features 23 of Donna Summer’s songs, including such dance hits as “Hot Stuff” and “Last Dance,” that a talented cast performs in glitzy disco drag. That may be all some fans need from this thin Broadway musical that purports to tell the life story of the singer born LaDonna Adrian Gaines, who had a wildly successful career from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s.

“With her doe eyes, cascade of hair and sinuous dance moves, Ms. Summer became the queen of disco,” an obituary writer summed up Summer when she died six years ago from cancer at the age of 63.

It’s probably inaccurate to say that most theatergoers would be disappointed by Summer: The Donna Summer Musical – because few would expect much in the first place from yet another commercial bio drama jukebox musical.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

Advertisements

Carousel: Review and pics

 

The new “Carousel” has the most glorious singing on Broadway, as well as thrilling choreography and picturesque sets and costumes that seem lifted from great American paintings by Thomas Eakins and Edward Hopper. It also has a surprisingly dark story whose last half hour has aged so poorly it offers a bizarre mix of the ugly and the precious.
Director Jack O’Brien, though he has made some superficial changes to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved 1945 musical, hasn’t solved its dated attitude toward domestic abuse, nor does he take the corn out of the scenes set in Heaven; if anything, he makes more corn, inserting a prologue of angels gamboling in stage smoke, and expanding the role of the Starkeeper, the celestial counselor. But in this fifth Broadway revival, the director does bring us opera star Renee Fleming as Nettie Fowler singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (which she sang at Barack Obama’s inaugural concert) and “June Is Busting Out All Over” – which would be enough right there in my book to make up for any flaws in the show…

Full review at DC Theatre Scene.

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

Mlima’s Tale Review: Lynn Nottage’s Poetic Play about Elephant Slaughter and the Ivory Trade

Elephants might become extinct in 20 years because of poaching for their ivory, we learn from “Mlima’s Tale,” the unusual new play by Lynn Nottage, the Pulitzer prize winning playwright of Ruined and Sweat, which is staged poetically by Jo Bonney, with a memorable performance by Sahr Ngaujah as Mlima.
Read more of this post

Mean Girls Review: Tina Fey’s Ill-Timed Broadway Musical About High School

At the end of “Mean Girls,” Cady, the new girl in high school who tries so hard to fit in that she’s become phony and superficial, tells her classmates that she’s learned her lesson: “I wanted everyone to like me so bad, I kind of lost myself in the process.” Had Tina Fey and her collaborators learned the same lesson, they surely would not have turned her smart, funny 2004 movie into the overlong, ill-timed Broadway musical that is currently running at the August Wilson Theater.
Read more of this post

Children of a Lesser God Review: Deaf Rights and Romance, Four Decades Later

The first Broadway revival of “Children of a Lesser God,” the award-winning, boundary-breaking 1980 play by Mark Medoff about the romance and eventual marriage between a hearing teacher at a school for the deaf and a deaf graduate, is the only show on Broadway whose creative team includes a “director of artistic sign language.” It is the only show on Broadway to project supertitles of the entire script at EVERY performance, and to schedule sign language interpreters regularly. And, above all, it is of course the only show that marks the stunning Broadway debut of Lauren Ridloff, who portrays Sarah Norman, whose language (like the actress’s) is American Sign Language.
These are reasons enough to welcome this production, and to consider it pioneering, even as the play it’s remounting feels dated.
Read more of this post

Dutch Masters Review: Black Meets White on Subway

In “Dutch Masters,” a new play written by Greg Keller and directed by Andre Holland, a young black man meets a young white man on the subway, with unexpected results. In “Dutchman,” the 1964 play by LeRoi Jones (soon to change his name to Amiri Baraka), a young black man meets a white woman on the subway, with unexpected results.
Read more of this post

Miss You Like Hell Review: Daphne Rubin-Vega on Immigrant Mother-Daughter Road Trip

“Miss You Like Hell,” a new musical by “In The Heights” book writer Quiara Alegría Hudes and singer-songwriter Erin McKeown, depicts the most American of adventures, the road trip. But this road trip takes place in the America of today, and so the discoveries and self-discovery are edged with some dark realities.
Daphne Rubin-Vega, portraying one of her most vibrant original characters since her Broadway debut in “Rent,” is Beatriz Santiago, a Mexican immigrant mother who drives from California to Philadelphia to pick up her troubled 16-year-old daughter, Olivia (the terrific Gizel Jiménez.) They have not seen each other for four years – Olivia’s American-born father has sole custody of her – but Beatriz has been reading Olivia’s blog, in which she asked her readers whether she should jump off the Ben Franklin Bridge. And so Beatriz insists that Olivia accompany her on a cross-country trip over the next seven days.
Read more of this post

This Flat Earth Review: Another School Shooting, and Two Teens Reel

In “This Flat Earth,” 13-year-old Julie (Ella Kennedy Davis) doesn’t understand why the newspaper article about the school shooting that killed nine of her classmates has the word “Another” in the headline.

“Has this happened before?”

Her father Dan (Lucas Papaelias) reluctantly informs her that it has.

“If this has happened before, why would everybody be acting so shocked?…Why don’t the grown-ups just fix it?”
Read more of this post

Feeding the Dragon Review: An Enchanted Childhood Living Inside a Library

In “Feeding the Dragon” — Sharon Washington’s delightfully acted memoir about an enchanted childhood spent literally living in a branch of the New York Public Library — we learn at least three ways her life was affected by the unusual arrangement.

Her father worked as the custodian at the stately 1906 granite St. Agnes branch at 81st and Amsterdam, and so from 1969 to 1973 his family was given the luxurious apartment above the three floors of wood and marble, books and brass that it was his job to polish every day.

Read more of this post

Three Tall Women: Review and Pics

“I was tall and I was strong,” recalls the oldest woman in Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, and you believe it, because it is Glenda Jackson, who commands even as she winces in pain or cries in embarrassment or drifts into sad memories.
Jackson hasn’t been on a Broadway stage since 1988; she took a long detour from acting to become a member of the British Parliament . Three Tall Women has never been on a Broadway stage before. The 1994 Off-Broadway production of the play restored Albee’s reputation after 20 years of critical drubbing, winning him his third Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Jackson makes clear how much we’ve missed out by her absence from acting. But this is just one of the many triumphs of this exquisite Broadway premiere directed by Joe Mantello and co-starring Laurie Metcalf and Alison Pill. It is hard to imagine a better production of Albee’s humorous, caustic, secretly compassionate look at a life – and a death. It feels a fitting homage to the playwright, who died in 2016.

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Brigitte Lacombe to see it enlarged.