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.




#StellaBlizzard – Cancellations and #SnowDay Discounts

As of 2:30 pm, all Broadway shows are going on tonight as scheduled, but several Off-Broadway theaters are canceling their performances because of the blizzard theatrically named Stella. For answers to basic questions, such as what if I can’t make it? —  click on Broadway and Blizzards: Questions and Answers.

Below is information, many via Tweets from @NewYorkTheater, about cancellations and discounts.

Stella turns out to be a less….dramatic…storm than expected (at least in midtown Manhattan), and so the line is huge for the TKTS discount booth in Times Square:

and there are 22 Broadway shows on offer at a discount.


Public Theater and Joe’s Pub cancellations:

Playwrights Realm
has canceled #TheMoors today at Duke on 42nd Street.
To rebook tickets, call 646-223-3010


All TKTS discount booths will be open, including the one at Lincoln Center, which is indoors. Check out the shows that will be available for discount once TKTS opens for the day at TKTS online. 

Chicago: Save up to $50 on Chicago tonight using code CHFLY218.

Present Laugher: Use code PRLSNOW at the Box Office/online today for $45 seats!

Significant Other: Use code SOTCX110 for 40%OFF #SignificantBway, online or at the box office!

Some playwright snow poetry

Actress snow crack

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.

Giveaway Contest: The Great Comet

Comet 3D Cover Image

Win a free copy of the book “The Great Comet: The Journey of a New Musical to Broadway“(Sterling Publishing, 2016), which traces the improbable evolution of the musical, “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” that began with an unknown cast in tiny, experimental Ars Nova, an 87-seat Off-Off Broadway house, and wound up at Broadway’s 1,200-seat Imperial Theater, starring Josh Groban.

I describe the book in some detail here. It includes a CD with five of the songs

To enter the contest, please answer the following question:

What is the best book about the theater, and why?

1. Please put your answer in the comments at the bottom of this blog post, because the winner will be chosen through based on the order of your reply, not its content.
But you must answer the question, complete with description and explanation, or your entry will excluded from consideration.

Update: To clarify:  I’m asking for a non-fiction book about the theater — a memoir, a history, a textbook…anything but a script, libretto, fiction.

2. This contest ends Monday, March 20, 2017  at midnight Eastern Time, and I will make the drawing no later than noon the next day. I will  e-mail the winner at the e-mail  address that’s automatically included in the responses.  If I don’t get an e-mail back from you within 24 hours, I will choose another winner. The book will be mailed to you at an address in the United States or Canada.
(3. All submissions have to be approved, so you won’t necessarily see your entry right away: Please be patient, and don’t submit more than once.)

Great Comet book Spread 1

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.

The Outer Space Review: Ethan Lipton’s Sci Fi Shaggy Dog Midlife Crisis Musical

At first glance, singing storyteller Ethan Lipton and his three-member band – the creators and entire cast of “The Outer Space” – look like middle-aged men who never outgrew their childhood obsessions with space travel and rock ‘n’ roll. They wear those blue astronaut jumpsuits, and drink out of plastic spaceship sippy cups, and sing and play tunes in front of the walls at Joes Pub newly festooned with stars that glow purple if you shine a black light at them – precisely the decorations you’d expect in the bedroom of a nine-year-old boy.
This is how it seems on second glance, too, as Lipton narrates the funny, pointed, and strange story of the unnamed married couple who decide they’ve had it with Earth; they buy an old jalopy of a rocket ship and live in a space colony that orbits the planet Mercury, where 3,100 people live, work and shop in some 450 vessels, including a “one-dollar ship.”
Half science fiction, half Moth-like shaggy dog tale involving a midlife crisis, half social satire, half a revue of unrelated songs in a mix of genres, “The Outer Space” doesn’t quite add up to a musical. But it does count as an almost unique entertainment – “almost,” because it’s a sequel of sorts to “No Place To Go,” Lipton and company’s 2012 show, also at the Public. In that one, the man’s job was moving to Mars, and he had to decide whether to move along with it or stay in New York. In “The Outer Space,” that same man moves reluctantly to Mercury with his wife, who is the one who needed to get away from Earth.
It would be foolhardy to try to summarize the story in the 90-minute show, not because there isn’t one – although there isn’t one – but because “The Outer Space” makes something of an art form out of off-the-wall and out-of-left-field.

That’s true about the lyrics – for example, in “She Does Well in Space,” Lipton describes the wife as:
“Friend to every varmint on the block
Chickens, broccoli, they all join her flock.”

Or in the song, A to Z:
Like apples and aardvarks
Birthdays and bingo
(etc through the whole alphabet)
it’s hard to know how we could walk and talk more differently.”

That’s true about his analogies too. Lipton says the husband

“….had to concede,
our cost of living keeps going up like a rocket
while our wages putter along like a school bus
and our savings sit there like a turtle until some major catastrophe—
like a trip to the grocery store— drives them back into the toilet.”

It’s true about his descriptions of the other characters in the space colony, such as “Mika, who works in cosmology, and her husband Donald, who is part bicycle.”

Vito Dieterle, on sax

In keeping with this approach, “The Outer Space” is full of non-sequiturs and digressions. But these are funny non-sequiturs and digressions full of a kind of folksy urban social commentary, and they are set to music that is variously folk, down home blues, funk, bluegrass, Latin-flavored jazz, both soft pop and hard rock, and a final lovely ballad that begins:

Have you ever had the dream
of going somewhere beautiful
Somewhere far away and magical
at the end of all that’s natural

In short, “The Outer Space,” helps the audience, just like that space-traveling couple, get away from it all, albeit just for 80 minutes or so. And by “it all,” Lipton explains, he means:
“noise, violence, oppression, the grind,
rudeness, tourism, traffic, trash,
smelly buses, corporate greed, cultural homogenization, economic marginalization, pollution, overcrowded schools, overpriced rents, overhyped pastries, and busker rock” – as well as (I expect a recent update) the “Dark Lord” that “took over the universe.”

The Outer Space
Joe’s Pub at the Public
Book and Lyrics by Ethan Lipton 
Music composed and performed by Ethan Lipton, Vito Dieterle, Eben Levy & Ian Riggs
Directed by Leigh Silverman

Scenic and Costume Design: David Zinn
Lighting Design: Ben Stanton
Sound Design: Nicholas Pope
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: $40
The Outer Space is scheduled to run through April 9, 2017

Women Playwrights Who Won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama

Fifteen women have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. On this International Women’s Day, we celebrate them and their work. (Each play title is linked to an Amazon page where you can learn more about it, and purchase the script.)

Zona Gale, Miss Lulu Bett, 1921

Susan Glaspell, Alison’s House, 1931

Zoe Akins, The old maid,, 1935

Mary Coyle Chase, Harvey, 1945

Frances Goodrich, The Diary of Anne Frank., 1956 (co-written with Albert Hackett)

Ketti Frings, Look Homeward, Angel, 1958

Beth Henley, Crimes of the Heart., 1981

Marsha Norman, ‘night, Mother, 1983

Wendy Wasserstein, The Heidi Chronicles., 1989

Paula Vogel, How I Learned to Drivee, 1998

Margaret Edson, Wit, 1999

Suzan-Lori Parks, TOPDOG UNDERDOG, 2002

Lynn Nottage, Ruined, 2009

Quiara Alegría Hudes, Water by the Spoonful, 2012

Annie Baker, The Flick, 2014

The Great Comet: The Journey of A New Musical To Broadway. Book

Comet 3D Cover Image

As Lin-Manuel Miranda did with “Hamilton,” so Dave Malloy came up with the idea for his innovative hit Broadway musical, “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” while reading a book under the tropical sun. But Malloy wasn’t on vacation; he was working as a piano player on a cruise ship, which gave him enough spare time to plow through Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Both musicals, then, began with a book. Each is now also the subject of a similar elaborate coffee table book, oversized and authorized. (Hamilton’s was “Hamilton the Revolution.”)

The Great Comet: The Journey of a New Musical to Broadway“(Sterling Publishing, 2016) traces the improbable evolution of a musical that began with an unknown cast in tiny, experimental Ars Nova, an 87-seat Off-Off Broadway house, and wound up at Broadway’s 1,200-seat Imperial Theater, starring Josh Groban (He leaves July, 2017)

The book’s 212 pages includes the full libretto of the musical, annotated by Malloy; some full-page, full-color photographic spreads; and 18 chapters, each written by a different key player in the show – author, director, producers, designers, stars. As an extra treat and inducement, a CD with five of the songs is placed snugly in a pocket in the inside back cover.

Such an elaborate book can be said to function – much the way the show itself does – as a counterargument to our society’s growing digital dominance. This is a book that is only available in hardcover. (at least for the moment.)

In his chapter, Malloy details his inspiration for the musical. He chose to dramatize 70 pages from Tolstoy’s novel (Volume 2, chapter 5 – or, if your edition isn’t divided up that way, Book 8.) In order not to retain Tolstoy’s “voice” – “I’ve often joked that in Tolstoy I had the best collaborator” – he put the entire novel in a Word document, “and just started whittling away…..the experiment was to put a novel onstage” – which is why there are few rhymes in the lyrics.
He was also greatly inspired by a recent visit he had made through a tangle of desolate back alleys to a raucous bar in Moscow. He wanted to recreate that feel. Set designer Mimi Lien got to work. For the interior (as she explains in her chapter), “I wanted everyone to feel like they were walking into a velvet-lined Faberge egg.” But she wanted to contrast this “lush, czarist Russia” with the feel of the back alleys through which Malloy had navigated to get to the Moscow bar. Lien saw this as stark “post-Cold War era,” which is why she transformed the hallway of the Imperial into ugly grey concrete decorated with ugly Russian posters. She saw this contrast as literally the contrast between war and peace – Tolstoy’s theme.

Lien adjusted her set design for its many venues, which included two different runs in a custom-built circus tent, one downtown in the Meat Market district, the other in the theater district. Commercial producer Howard Kagan explains how they came up with the tent — they couldn’t find a theater or any other already-built real estate in New York that could accommodate them — including a location where the local community board would approve both the performance and a fully-operating restaurant.
Not all the chapters are as intriguing. The book could have benefited from more aggressive editing to cut down on the repetition and gushing prose. (the book obviously went to press before the dispute between Arg Nova and the commercial producer over billing in the Playbill, although I somehow doubt this would have made it into the text.)

Malloy’s annotations of his script are erudite and sometimes technical. He reprints passages from Tolstoy’s novel that he adapted, or lifted outright, in the lyrics. He occasionally explains his musical influences, which range from Bjork to Les Miserables – and that’s just in one song (“Natasha Lost.”)
The annotations are occasionally more entertaining. Next to the text of the duel between Pierre and Dolokhov, he gives a nod to Lin-Manuel Miranda, and the duel in Hamilton, adding: “Who knew that Broadway would become such a duelfest.”
I enjoyed Malloy‘s comment on my favorite melody in the show, “Charming,” when Helene’s chorus is a rocking, tuneful “Charmante, Charmante.” It turns out she is mispronouncing the French word. “This very sly and subtle character touch was originally a result of my not having done very well in high school French,” Malloy writes, “and then later liking the supercool rhythm in the melody too much to change it. And Helene is a bit of a dilettante, and it’s actually pretty hilarious to me that she is so confidently butchering the French in the chorus of her big son, so….in the end, this works for me!”

In the end, The Great Comet: The Journey of a New Musical to Broadway” will likely work for the bulk of its readers, those already fans of the musical.

Buy “The Great Comet: The Journey of a New Musical to Broadway

March Madness. Week in New York Theater

March is a busy month for theater, as usual, but that’s not the only way madness seems to have taken hold.

Luckily, there is help for stressed out theater people.

Friedman Center logo

Opening today: The Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts

The center is sponsored by The Actors Fund, which is also about to start  a support group for theater people to weather these stressful times. It begins March 10.

Bryan Doerries, the founder of Theater of War, has been named New York City’s Public Artist in Residence, (PAIR.) As I have written in the past, Theater of War uses the dramas of Ancient Greek and other classic tragedies to help with the healing process. Initially, this was with military veterans, but it has spread.

The first PAIR event will be at Greene Space on March 20. It will be a reading of Sophocles’s Ajax and Philoctetes, featuring Paul Giamatti, Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, and Reg E. Cathey.
The event will be livestreamed on the website for the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which is funding PAIR through a $1,365 million grant.
Other scheduled community events:
Brooklyn Public Library’s Crown Heights branch (April 6)
the Main Auditorium at Susan Wagner High School, Staten Island (April 14)
Rockaway Theatre Company in Rockaway, Queens (April 17)
The Pregones + Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in the Bronx (May 6).

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

I reviewed the following plays last week. They are ranked in order of my preference, my favorite first, with links to the full review and production photographs.

Sweeney Todd

Tooting Arts Club’s exceptionally entertaining production of Sweeney Todd, Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s glorious murderous musical, began in 2014 in Harrington’s, one of London’s oldest working pie shops. An impressively detailed replica of Harrington’s has now set up shop Off-Broadway at the Barrow Street Theater, including the pies…
(Sweeney Todd has been extended at Barrow Street Theatre through December 31.)

Significant Other

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.

If I Forget

In “If I Forget,” a well-acted, often funny and always engaging Jewish family drama by Steven Levenson (the book-writer for Dear Evan Hansen) we travel back to an era that no longer exists except in memory, although it is a mere 15 years ago…the concerns of Levenson’s play feel both up-to-the-minute and age-old, as Michael (Jeremy Shamos) and his two sisters Holly (Kate Walsh, from Private Practice) and Sharon (Maria Dizzia) argue politics and religion and identity….and what to do about Dad.

Wakey, Wakey

With gentle humor and a lack of fussiness, Michael Emerson manages to woo us through the deliberate vagueness, starts-and-stops, meta interruptions, of his monologue, even before we are completely certain why Guy is talking to us. There are hints from the get-go that he’s presiding over his own wake…It becomes irrefutably clear that Guy is dying only when Lisa (January LaVoy) arrives and her casual ministrations establish her as his caretaker

All The Fine Boys

If “All The Fine Boys,” written and directed by Erica Schmidt, had just been the scenes between Emily and Adam, the play would have been a sweet, funny, awkward, well-observed coming-of-age tale. But the scenes between Jenny and Joe wind up as a combination Lifetime movie cautionary tale, and campy Grand Guignol horror movie, which features Abigail Breslin (Oscar nominee at age 10 for Little Miss Sunshine) being deflowered on a couch before our eyes while eating a slice of pizza – and it gets worse from there…

Rebecca Pidgeon and Chris Bauer

The Penitent

he 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 has structured ‘The Penitent’ so that information is parceled out in stingy pieces. Some of this is surely for dramatic effect, particularly a revelation at the end that is undoubtedly meant to knock us out. But this approach winds up undercutting his thematic explorations…And that ending (which I won’t reveal) is not only implausible to the point of self-parody; it negates or at least clouds all the intellectual debate that’s gone before it.”

The Week in New York Theater News

My Fair Lady is returning to Broadway.   Produced by Lincoln Center, and directed by Bartlett Sher,  it will begin previews March 22, 2018 and open on April 19, 2018 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. No cast has been announced. This will be the fifth Broadway production of the musical based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion.” The first, in 1956, starred Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle (pictured.)

$41 rush tickets will still be offered to Sunday in the Park with George (It was supposed to end when show opened)

Miriam Colón a well-known movie actress who took roles opposite Brando and Pacino (most famously as his mother in Scarface) and many others, has died at age 80. She was the founder of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in 1967,  to bring free bilingual theater to venues throughout New York City. In 1993 she received an Obie Award for lifetime achievement in Off Broadway theater. In 2015 President Barack Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts.

Roberta Maxwell and Maryann Plunkett in Women of a Certain Age, Play Three of The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family

Richard Nelson’s trilogy The Gabriels will be livestreamed on BroadwayHD from the Public Theater

Olivier Awards – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child receives record 11 nominations

‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ Sets Nominations Record for U.K. Olivier Awards (Full List)

Ann Harada, Kelvin Moon Loh join George Takei in Classic Stage Company’s Pacific Overtures

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” is no more. Now the @nyneofuturists weekend show will be called “The Infinite Wrench”

Playwrights Horizons 2017-18 season

All the Fine Boys Review: Abigail Breslin in (Half A) Horror Play of Lost Virginity

Isabelle Fuhrman and Abigail Breslin

Isabelle Fuhrman and Abigail Breslin

Jenny and Emily are both 14 years old, new friends in a small-town suburb in South Carolina in the 1980s; they both love horror movies; they both want to lose their virginity. In “All the Fine Boys, their differing paths after their sole scene together function as a right way and a wrong way to have a crush. But their separate scenes also demonstrate the right way and wrong way to put together a play.

Emily (Isabelle Fuhrman) has a crush on Adam (Alex Wolff.) As she explains to Jenny: “He’s smart. He’s tall. He’s old, he’s like an adult.”

“He’s 17,” Jenny says.

“He glows,” Emily replies.

By contrast, Jenny (Abigail Breslin) gets together with Joe (Joe Tippett), a man who is twice her age and, we eventually learn, is both a husband and a father.

If “All The Fine Boys,” written and directed by Erica Schmidt, had just been the scenes between Emily and Adam, the play would have been a sweet, funny, awkward, well-observed coming-of-age tale. Adam, as portrayed by Wolff, is hilariously full of himself, but he also treats Emily with respect, and we see the two of them mature just in the short time frame of the play.

But the scenes between Jenny and Joe wind up as a combination Lifetime movie cautionary tale, and campy Grand Guignol horror movie, which features Abigail Breslin (Oscar nominee at age 10 for Little Miss Sunshine) being deflowered on a couch before our eyes while eating a slice of pizza – and it gets worse from there, escalating to violence involving a birthday cake.

Even Amy Rubin’s set seems to offer a commentary on the play’s unfortunate split personality. In the scenes between Emily and Adam, the door opens onto a hallway. In the scenes between Jenny and Joe, the same door opens onto a bathroom.




All The Fine Boys
New Group at Signature
Written and directed by Erica Schmidt
Set design by Amy Rubin, costume design by Tom Broecker, lighting design by Jeff Croiter, sound design by Bart Fasbender
Cast: Abigail Breslin, Isabelle Fuhrman, Joe Tippett and Alex Wolff
Running time: 100 minutes
Tickets: $85
“All The Fine Boys” is scheduled to run through March 26, 2017