The Ride. Unique Theatrical Experience?

TheRide2This year Sondheim and Chekhov and Tom Hanks and Vanessa Redgrave share honors with a bus. The Drama Desk Awards nominating committee has selected “The Ride” as one of the choices in “Unique Theatrical Experience,” one of its 29 award categories.

The Ride passes by Father Duffy Square

The Ride passes by Father Duffy Square

“The Ride” is a 75-minute tour through midtown Manhattan on a sightseeing bus. This is its “third season” – the trips began in October, 2010 – and, because the bus is full of illustrations by an artist named Charles Fazzino, it is now called the Fazzino Ride. It differs from other Manhattan sightseeing bus tours in two ways.  The bus itself, which the owners prefer to call a mobile theater, is specially constructed, so that passengers sit on three rows on the right side of the bus, and face the left side, which is a series of big picture windows bordered by blinking colored lights and video monitors. The most impressive technical achievement of the bus is its ability to impersonate a subway train. For a couple of blocks along Eighth Avenue, the lights turn blindingly white and blink rapidly, the sound system grinds, roars, rattles and barks, and the bus violently rocks the passengers back and forth. It is a spot-on and queasy simulation. No word yet on whether The Ride will next simulate a mugging.

The second distinguishing feature of The Ride is that, along the route, the passengers are treated to brief performances by a tap-dancer, break dancer, rapper, Broadway belter, ballet couple, and jazz duo – each introduced as if they were accidentally passing by.


TheRidecloseupIn-between the performances and the simulation, the two tour guides offer the typical sightseeing patter of corny jokes, half-hearted quizzes, and interesting trivia mixed in with deliberate or inadvertently inaccurate information about New York City.  (Purists need look no further for errors than the bus itself, which misspells “The Book of Mormon.”) The best thing about the ride is the reaction and interaction from (the real) passersby. Two young men started dancing as if they were part of the professional entertainment.

Is this a unique theatrical experience? To break this down: It’s certainly an experience.  Is it theatrical? That depends on what the word means. To the creators of The Ride, theatrical apparently doesn’t mean pertaining to the theater: Although the tour begins and ends on 42nd Street at Eighth Avenue, the heart of the theater district — and though the bus itself is illustrated with the names of many Broadway shows (most of them no longer open), the two tour guides offered no information about Broadway.

Is it unique? One can argue that the Ride symbolizes, if not embodies, most of what Broadway has become – an entertainment, full of genuinely talented performers, geared to tourists.

The other nominees in the category:

Bello Mania

Bello Mania

Bello Mania
Chris March’s The Butt-Cracker Suite! A Trailer Park Ballet
Cirque Du Soleil: Totem
That Play: A Solo Macbeth
The Man Who Laughs

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged

Fresh Faces of The New York Stage 2013

The 12 winners of the 2013 Theatre World Awards

The Theatre World Award winners for 2013 include, from top row left to right, Yvonne Strahovski (Golden Boy), Valisia LeKae (Motown)< Tom Hanks (Lucky Guy) Rob McClure (Chaplin), Carrie Coon (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf), Keala Settle (Hands on a Hardbody); Conrad Ricamora (Here Lies Love),  Brandon J. Dirden (The Piano Lesson), Bertie Carvel (Matilda); Ruthi Ann Miles (Here Lies Love); Tom Sturridge (Orphans); Shalita Grant (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike)

Broadway’s fresh faces this year include Tom Hanks, one of the world’s most familiar faces, and Yvonne Strahovski, who has a dedicated following for her roles in “Chuck” and “Dexter.” These are two of the 12 winners this past week of the 2013 Theatre World Awards, given to a dozen performers making their New York stage debuts. Two of the winners actually had made their debuts in previous seasons, but nobody is complaining in a season when 88-year-old Cicely Tyson can count as a fresh face — and a welcome one: This week Tyson won the Outer Critics Circle Award for best actress in a play, likely to be only the first for her.

This week “Smash” was canceled, “Orphans” announced it would close early, and “Jekyll and Hyde” did close early. But it’s awards season and so that’s where most of us focused our attention: We learned the winners of the Theatre World Awards  and the Outer Critics Circle Awards this week, and will find out the winners of the Drama Desk Awards on May 19 and the Tonys June 9. Meanwhile, we revel in the excitement of discovering exciting new talent on the stage — even those whom the world discovered in another medium long ago.

This Week in New York Theater

Monday, May 6, 2013

Billy Crudup and Shuler Hensley join Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in Pinter’s No Man’s Land and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, opening November 24 at the Cort Theater

“Orphans” will close May 19, after 27 previews and 37 regular performances. It was scheduled to close June 30th. It received two Tony nominations, for best best revival and for Tom Sturridge as best leading actor, but that apparently was not enough to bring in the audience.

How does a theater recover from embezzlement, founder’s suicide,near-bankruptcy? Ask the Ensemble Studio Theatre


12 winners of Theatre World Awards

The award is given to six men and six women making their New York stage debuts.

 Dame Helen Mirren dressed as the Queen left The Audience to “cuss out” some drummers outside the theater.  The drummers were “very sweet & stopped the minute they knew I wasn’t just a batty old woman haranguing them on the street”

 “How Broadway Has Changed” is title of Huffington Post piece by Alec Baldwin. But much of its contents show ho much it hasn’t changed: Baldwin wants the Times to fire its chief drama critic Ben Brantley.  Its contents: Fire Ben Brantley.


There will be another Broadway Beatles concert show: Let It Be, July 16 – December 29, at the St James Theater.

The Trip to Bountiful extends to September 1

My review of Surviving Mommie Dearest, opening tonight

The Pirates of Penzance with gasp! Kevin Kline, Glenn Close,Eric Idle, Martin Short. Catch? One night only, June 10, The Public Theater gala, with tickets priced in the gazillions of dollars.

Director Julie Taymor will be given an award for breaking gender barriers, and then chat with Gloria Steinem at the Brooklyn Museum June 13th.


To nobody’s surprise, Neil Patrick Harris will serve as host for the fourth  time, and a producer, of the Tony Awards. 

2013 Drama Desk Awards nominees: Billy Porter (Kinky Boots), Keith Carradine (Hands on a Hardbody), Keala Settle (Hardbody), Donna Murphy (Into The Woods), Tim Minchin (Matilda), Andrea Martin (Pippin)

2013 Drama Desk Awards nominees: Billy Porter (Kinky Boots), Keith Carradine (Hands on a Hardbody), Keala Settle (Hardbody), Donna Murphy (Into The Woods), Tim Minchin (Matilda), Andrea Martin (Pippin)

14 Broadway and Off-Broadway theater artists (Drama Desk Award nominees) talk about their first time — the performer or show that convinced them to become theater artists.



August: Osage County movie peek

Me: What play convinced you to become a playwright?

Tracy Letts: Killer Joe.

Me: But you wrote that play.

Melissa Errico (@melissa_errico) Best you hear it from me first. I am going to have a laser procedure to repair a blood vessel on my vocal cord

GoodbyefromSmashIt’s official: Smash has been canceled. Its season 2 finale on May 26th will be the series finale.


Top 11 songs from Smash


Ending today:  “Jekyll and Hyde,”  “Tally’s Folly, ”
“Buyer & Cellar” (starting at Barrow Street Theater June 18)


Outer Critics Circle Awards 2013


Vanya and Sonia, best Broadway play, Kinky Boots, best Broadway musical, best actress Cicely Tyson, best ator, Nathan Lane

Vanya and Sonia, Outer Critics Circle best Broadway play, Kinky Boots, best Broadway musical, best actress Cicely Tyson (The Trip to Bountiful), best actor, Nathan Lane (The Nance)


Broadway Season Ends, Awards Season Begins

NYTheaterWeekofAp22The Broadway season has ended and the awards season begun, when theater people turn from the art of theater to its mathematics.

Here are the shows I reviewed last week, starting with my favorites:

Here Lies Love

The Trip to Bountiful

Buyer and Seller

I’ll Eat You Last

The Testament of Mary

(You’ll notice two are Off-Broadway)

Here are the awards coming up:

Outer Critics Circle

Drama League

Drama Desk

The Tony Awards

There are more theater awards — a new one seems to pop up every year — but the first three announced their nominations already; the last one is announcing Tuesday, and has already announced  the 2013 Tony Honors.(See April 24, below) and the 2013 Regional Tony (See 26)

There was some news for next season too — announcements of a revival of “The Glass Menagerie” and a musical version of “Rocky.”

The Week in New York Theater

Monday, April 22, 2013

outercriticscirclelogoOuter Critics Circle nominations are announced.



Lucky Guy

The Nance

The Testament of Mary

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike



Chaplin: The Musical

A Christmas Story

Hands on a Hardbody

Kinky Boots

Matilda the Musical


 Full list

The Testament of Mary opens

Fiona Shaw in The Testament of Mary By Colm TóibínMy review of The Testament of Mary

It seemed like a stunt at first, inviting the audience on stage to see the set of “The Testament of Mary” – the live vulture (we’re told his name is Pinhead)…and then Fiona Shaw as the Virgin Mary…Testament director Deborah Warner has been her frequent collaborator over the past quarter century.The track record of their collaboration, the care with which scenic designer Tom Pye chose all those objects on the stage, the awe-inspiring lighting by Jennifer Tipton, all suggest that “The Testament of Mary” should be a deeply resonant work of theater. But I’m afraid at some point in this play I came back full circle to my initial impression, that this production was something of a stunt; all the attention-getting theatricality started to cause my attention to drift.


He was a man. Take him for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again.” (Hamlet) Shakespeare, born 439 years ago today.

The two new leads in Once, taking over today: Arthur Darvill and Joanna Christie

Nominations for the 2013  ‪Drama League Awards  (which include 60 nominations for ONE “Distinguished Performance Award”

There were five Broadway shows last week with MORE than 100% attendance: The Book of Mormon, Pippin, Motown, Lucky Guy, I’ll Eat You Last. 

Here Lies Love 7

My review of Here Lies Love

Imelda Marcos, the former First Lady of the Philippines, was known for two things in America –owning 3,000 pairs of shoes and dancing in discos.  “Here Lies Love,”  David Byrne’s inspired musical about her, ignores the shoes – the actress playing her wears just one sturdy pair for the entire show, and there is no mention at all of her vast collection of Gucci and Prada and Pierre Cardin  – but, as if to compensate, has turned her life story into a night at a disco.

The third-floor LuEsther Hall  of the Public Theater has been transformed into a dance club — complete with silver disco ball — for a thrilling production directed  by Alex Timbers, best-known for mixing revisionist history, politics, snark and rock in “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson.”  Here the snark has been turned off and the rock ramped up — 25 original songs that take us through some 40 years of biography and history.

Full review of Here Lies Love

The Trip to Bountiful 1

My review of The Trip to Bountiful

Cicely Tyson has come home….At age 88, she has taken on a part first portrayed on the stage by Lillian Gish (then just 60), in a performance in 1953 that the critic Brooks Atkinson called “a triumph of skill and spirit.” That seems exactly right for Cicely Tyson as well. Hers is a vibrant performance – very far from the arthritic old maid she portrayed in the 2011 film “The Help” – and a fresh interpretation…Having Vanessa Williams portray Jessie Mae is the second smart casting choice of this production…
It is a testament to his skills as a director that Michael Wilson — who helmed one of my all-time favorite productions, Horton Foote’s three-part Orphan’s Home Cycle at the Signature — has created an ensemble of persuasively plain everyday characters out of an A list cast ..

Full review of The Trip to Bountiful


‪”Nice Work If You Can Get It”  will close June 15 after 27 previews & 478 regular performances. National tour planned for 2014

The new Elphaba in Wicked starting May 28th is Lindsay Mendez, who was so good in “Dogfight” and “Godspell”

Anne Hathaway may be making her Broadway debut opposite Alan Cumming in a revival of Cabaret in September, according to The Daily Mail. This has not been confirmed.

The Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre :

Career Transition For Dancers,  agent Bill Craver, stage manager Peter Lawrence,  The Lost Colony (a play by Paul Green that has become an North Carolina performing arts institution) and the four girls playing Matilda.

The first musical about fracking?  The Marcellus Shale ‪at LaMama, May 24-June 9

I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers

My review of I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers

In “I’ll Eat You Last,” Bette Midler reads the phone book, to great laughter and applause.

This particular phone book belongs to Hollywood agent Sue Mengers, and contains only the names of the famous, the near-famous, or the once-famous who were Mengers’ clients or party guests, or the celebrities she wanted to be her clients or party guests.
I speak metaphorically about the phone book, but it’s  apt for many reasons. Dressed in a caftan and seated on a couch throughout the entire 80 minutes of this thinnest of scripts, Midler as Mengers drops about 50 such names, telling extended anecdotes about a half dozen or so of them…Her delivery is the only reason to see this show. She finds the laugh in the lamest of lines…But here’s a question I’m not sure anybody asked: Would Sue Mengers have advised Midler to take this particular role?

Full review of I’ll Eat You Last


The American Repertory Company’s production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” starring Cherry Jones  and Zachary Quinto is transfering to Broadway  in September for 17 weeks

Zachary Quinto ‪@ZacharyQuinto: Dear Broadway: i simply simply cannot wait to be on you for the first tim

Director Timothy Douglas did Trip to Bountiful with an all-black cast first, and now wants credit from the Broadway production 


The four Matildas —  Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon and Milly Shapiro —  will NOT be eligible for The Tony Awards leading actress, but have been awarded a special Tony Honors for Excellence

A smart move, in my opinion.Where would it end? “Charlie Bit My Finger” musical with babies in lead?

The Tony committee deemed Kristine Nielsen of  “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” eligible for lead actress, not supporting, which diminishes her chances of winning, and changes the dynamic of the supporting actress category.

No surprise – Here Lies Love has been extended again

Cast of Keen Company’s s production of Sondheim’s Marry Me A Little in recording studio today, for an album produced by ShKBoom. 

The Huntington Theatre Company to receive 2013 Regional Tony Award, as recommended by members of the American Theatre Critics Association. (ATCA)


Theater Access for the Deaf, Blind, and Autistic: New Technology, Changing Attitudes


Ending today: The Revisionist, with Vanessa Redgrave in a play written by and co-starring Jesse Eisenberg

Near-certainty Smash will be canceled after season 2 finale airing Sun,May 26th. I’d like to see Bombshell staged for real


It’s official: Rocky, a musical based on Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky movies, will open in March 2014 at Broadway’s Winter Garden.

The stage version of novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has won seven Oliviers, a tie with Matilda as the most ever.

Daniel Bourque @Danfrmbourque:   Just wait. This is a preview of the Tony Awards in a year or so when the National transfers it to Broadway.

Michael Urie as Barbra Streisand's employee Alex (and Streisand's hand running through Alex's hair) in "Buyer and Cellar"

My review of “Buyer and Cellar”

Buyer and Cellar,” which imagines a man (played by Michael Urie)  hired to work for Barbra Streisand at her Malibu home,  is no more important than the lacquer on Streisand’s fingernails, certainly no deeper. But it seems to sum up the Spring 2013 theater season in New York in several ways…1. It’s a solo show…2. It’s based on a book.the first play based on a coffee table book ..3. It features Barbra Streisand….4. It’s about celebrity obsession.

The 2013 Drama Desk Awards Nominations


Outstanding Play
Annie Baker, The Flick
Christopher Durang, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Joe Gilford, Finks
Richard Greenberg, The Assembled Parties
Amy Herzog, Belleville
Deanna Jent, Falling
Richard NelsonSorry

Outstanding Musical
A Christmas Story: The Musical
Hands on a Hardbody
Here Lies Love
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
The Other Josh Cohen

The Tony Awards: My Selections

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Audra McDonald, Clybourne Park, Death of A Salesman, Once are all worthy nominees at 2012 Tony Awards

Audra McDonald, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Once, Death of A Salesman, Clybourne Park are among my selections for 2012 Tony Awards

Nobody would argue that the Tony Awards are the most important awards for theater in America, but there is one reason for this: They are the only ones broadcast on national television. Although the ratings are so low as to be the butt of jokes, the truth is that the seven million or so viewers who tune in once a year represent more than half of all Broadway theater-goers for the entire year. (Last year, 12.13 million attended a Broadway show, according to the Broadway League.)

One could argue — although nobody does — that any number of the many other theater awards are just as worthy of attention. The Theatre World Awards are older and give a boost to performers making their New York state debuts, the Drama Desk Awards are more inclusive, welcoming Off-Broadway and even a few Off-Off Broadway shows, while the Tony Awards are limited to those shows that appeared in the season in one of the 40 Broadway theaters. (Does anybody believe that Broadway has a monopoly on quality plays and musicals in New York?)

Anyway, it’s nice to get caught up in Tony fever, so here is my two cents, followed by the views and predictions of others. I make no predictions: How can I get into the minds and hidden agendas of  hundreds of Tony voters? Here is who I would like to see win:


Nominees: Clybourne Park (Bruce Norris), Other Desert Cities (Jon Robin Baitz), Peter and the Starcatcher (Rick Elice), Venus in Fur (David Ives)

Should Win: Clybourne Park

It’s not a perfect play. I don’t think it will last, but it’s the best of the choices. Other Desert Cities is terrific, and I would have chosen this one – except for the ending.


Nominees: Leap of Faith, Newsies, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Once

Should Win: Once

Once stands out for its feeling of authenticity. All the other shows feel unusually synthetic – you could say fake – even for Broadway.           


Nominees: Lysistrata Jones (Douglas Carter Beane), Newsies (Harvey Fierstein), Nice Work If You Can Get It (Joe DiPietro), Once (Enda Walsh)

Should Win: Once

I love Harvey Fierstein; this is far from his best writing. I guess you could also say that the book for Once is far from Enda Walsh’s best writing, but it’s better than any of the others in the category.


Nominees: Bonnie & Clyde (Frank Wildhorn & Don Black), Newsies (Alan Menken & Jack Feldman), One Man, Two Guvnors (Grant Olding), Peter and the Starcatcher (Wayne Barker & Rick Elice)

Should Win: Newsies

Is nobody concerned that half the songs in Newsies were in a 20-year-old movie? How does that make them “original”? Another mystery of the Tony nominating process. Still, like it or not, the songs in Newsies are the catchiest.



Nominees: Death of a Salesman, The Best Man, Master Class, Wit

Should Win: Death of a Salesman


Nominees: Evita, Follies, Porgy and Bess, Jesus Christ Superstar

Should Win: Porgy and Bess

I’ll admit this is unlikely. Maybe Sondheim will take the opportunity during his acceptance speech for Follies to apologize for his unfair if witty attack on Porgy and Bess. Did he actually wind up seeing it? I did, and I thought they did a good job of adjusting the squirm-inducing aspects of a show that is beloved for its score, not for its outdated attitudes.


Nominees: James Corden, One Man, Two Guvnors; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Death of a Salesman; James Earl Jones, The Best Man; Frank Langella, Man and Boy; John Lithgow, The Columnist

Should Win: Philip Seymour Hoffman or John Lithgow

There’s some weirdness in the nominations here. Two don’t belong for different reasons. John Lithgow gives another one of his miraculous performances in a new play, turning an unpleasant character into someone we like watching. But, yes, Philip Seymour Hoffman is the master, taking charge of a classic play that remains so relevant and so moving.


Nominees: Nina Arianda, Venus in Fur; Tracie Bennett, End of the Rainbow; Stockard Channing, Other Desert Cities; Linda Lavin, The Lyons; Cynthia Nixon, Wit

 Should Win: Nina Arianda, Stockard Channing, Linda Lavin

 This is an impossible category. I can’t remember ever being so pleased by so many performers in one category. These three are completely wonderful in very different ways. I can only hope there is a three-way tie. Wouldn’t that be great?


Nominees: Danny Burstein, Follies; Jeremy Jordan, Newsies; Steve Kazee, Once; Norm Lewis, Porgy and Bess; Ron Raines, Follies

Should Win: Danny Burstein

A tough one, again, but not as tough.


Nominees: Jan Maxwell, Follies; Audra McDonald, Porgy and Bess; Cristin Milioti, Once; Kelli O’Hara, Nice Work If You Can Get It; Laura Osnes, Bonnie & Clyde:

Should Win: Audra McDonald

Yes, Audra McDonald has won four Tonys. And yes, Jan Maxwell was a surprise and a delight in a musical, and deserves finally to win a Tony. But McDonald has never won for lead actress, and she’s just mesmerizing in this show.

Best Performance, Featured actor, Play

Nominees: Christian Borle, Peter and the Starcatcher; Michael Cumpsty, End of the Rainbow; Tom Edden, One Man, Two Guvnors; Andrew Garfield, Death of a Salesman; Jeremy Shamos, Clybourne Park

 Should Win: Tom Edden

I don’t care if he had only three lines. He was the consummate physical comedian, and totally persuasive as an 87-year-old waiter, even though he’s about a third that age.

Best Performance, Featured Actress, Play

Nominees: Linda Emond, Death of a Salesman; Spencer Kayden, Don’t Dress for Dinner; Celia Keenan-Bolger, Peter and the Starcatcher; Judith Light, Other Desert Cities; Condola Rashad, Stick Fly

Should Win: Judith Light or Spencer Kayden

Judith Light was great as Linda Laven’s replacement, allowing us to see a new, equally credible take on the character. But that show could have worked well with another performer. Spencer Kayden, on the other hand, was the only thing worth watching in Don’t Dress for Dinner. She was hilarious. The mystery is why it took more than a decade after Urinetown for her to return to Broadway.

 Best Performance, featured actor, musical

Nominees: Phillip Boykin, Porgy and Bess; Michael Cerveris, Evita; David Alan Grier, Porgy and Bess; Michael McGrath, Nice Work If You Can Get It; Josh Young, Jesus Christ Superstar

 Should Win: Michael McGrath.

 He’s a pro. If Judy Kaye wins – and she deserves to – it’s in part because of how well she and McGrath worked together.

I do think Phillip Boykin makes a wonderful villain.

Best Performance by, featured Actress, Musical

Nominees: Elizabeth A. Davis, Once; Jayne Houdyshell, Follies; Judy Kaye, Nice Work If You Can Get It; Jessie Mueller, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever; Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Ghost the Musical

 Should Win: Judy Kaye

She was splendid. But if Da’Vine Joy Randolph wins, I’ll cheer – it’ll be Da’Vine retribution for all the cynical naysaying critics of Ghost.


Nominees: Nicholas Hytner, One Man, Two Guvnors; Pam MacKinnon, Clybourne Park; Mike Nichols, Death of a Salesman; Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, Peter and the Starcatcher

 Mike Nichols

 It would be lovely for Pam MacKinnon to win, though. She did a good job, and it might end the knee-jerk free association of “female director” with “Julie Taymor”




Nominees: Jeff Calhoun, Newsies; Kathleen Marshall, Nice Work If You Can Get It; Diane Paulus, Porgy and Bess; John Tiffany, Once

Should Win: John Tiffany


Nominees: Rob Ashford, Evita; Christopher Gattelli, Newsies; Steven Hoggett, Once; Kathleen Marshall, Nice Work If You Can Get It

Should Win: Christopher Gattelli

 As I wrote in my review, the dancing in Newsies places it with Anything Goes and Memphis as the most exciting on Broadway.  (Why Kathleen Marshall wasn’t able to repeat her own excitement is one of those mysteries that make Broadway what it is.)

I think the dancing in “Once” is lovely, actually,  but on a different plane from the Newsies choreographic pyrotechnics. 


The New York Times take on the Tony Awards

The New York Post’s Michael Riedel predictions on the Tonys The obvious winners will be James Corden (“One Man, Two Guvnors”), Christian Borle (“Peter and the Starcatcher”), Audra McDonald (“Porgy”), Michael Cerveris (“Evita”), Judy Kaye (“Nice Work If You Can Get It”) and Judith Light (“Other Desert Cities”).

Stage Grade‘s poll of more than a dozen New York critics