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The Dessoff Choirs: We Remember

November 15, 2016

Performed the evening before the American election, the theme and purpose of the concert – remembrance of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., two “outstanding stewards of humanity,” in Merriweather's words, whose lives were cut short by violence – embodied for musicians and audience alike art's core purposes. Art locates, grounds and inspires us; it gives us vocabularies for understanding ourselves. In the case of the works on this program, the American music of remembrance, contained in pieces by Steven Stucky and David Hurd, reminds us that moral and political conscience transcends individual lives and is strong within us all, even when our heroes are slain; and Mozart's "Requiem" calls up the universality of hope for salvation and pleadings for peace. [more]

The Saint Thomas Choir of Men & Boys: Haydn’s The Creation

November 14, 2016

From the very first opening bars of the "Chaos" overture, Hyde set the tone for the evening: conducting with gentlemanly authoritativeness, Hyde led the Orchestra of St. Luke's – who were all in exceptionally fine form – in a performance of expansive energy and optimism. Theologically, God's working material for his creation may have been unfathomably chaotic and formless, but in this particular artistic account of creation, Haydn's description of chaos is so informed by elegance, wit and bravura that the primordial chaos seems to have been imbued with goodness. [more]

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November 14, 2016

Gordon created the role of Gertrude Stein with mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe in mind. Blythe’s monumental presence, thanks to a towering, charismatic, forceful voice, is meant to arrest and command attention. Blythe captures Stein’s complicated personality – her genius, her stalwartness, her humor and her occasional, brutal judgments about the artistic quality of her bon mots. [more]

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

November 9, 2016

Josie Rourke, artisic director of the Donmar Warehouse, understands the game’s complexity and what adroit moves need to be made throughout to maintain a psychological cohesiveness. Her deft hand is evident in her light touch so that the production is not weighed down by nastiness. Where Rourke falls down is casting Schreiber, who is known for his charismatic masculinity and not for being a jocund bon vivant. Valmont needs to be more calculating, as well as, effete. [more]

John Zorn: Composer Portraits

November 3, 2016

In the first concert of the 2016-2017 Composer Portraits season at Columbia University School of the Arts' Miller Theatre, current music of American composer John Zorn (b. 1953), including five premieres, was presented and enthusiastically received. More accurately: Zorn's music-making – his understanding of individual composing and collegial collaborating as interconnected projects – was exuberantly celebrated. [more]

Phantasmagoria; or, Let Us Seek Death!

October 31, 2016

Benjamin Stuber’s puppetry designs are a disappointment and should be more thoughtful and complementary to the play. Ghoulish puppets that are meant to disturb seem make-shift and thrown together. There is only one disturbing and appropriately quirky puppet effect – the appearance of a huge eye, set into a collage background of assorted textiles. [more]

Ship of Fools

October 20, 2016

Visual artist and puppeteer Jessica Scott navigates through a satiric and fascinating new media “seascape” with a dysfunctional ship’s crew, albeit all women. Scott’s "Ship of Fools" uses nightmare structure, intentionally drawing from Book VI of Plato’s "Republic" (from whence its title came), Bosch imagery and other surreal allegories, depicting the fine line between heroines and madness. [more]

The God Projekt

October 19, 2016

In "The God Projekt," the “Divine He” repeatedly tries to make reparations for his past destructive deeds, but to no avail. God is wrestling with dementia and in a time loop. Yet, he is determined to correct, well, his god-awful mistakes -- one of which is not only acknowledging the “Divine She” in his heavenly order, but atoning for a heinous crime against her. [more]

Daddy Issues

October 15, 2016

The gregarious Matt Koplik plays Donald Moscowitz who constantly bears the brunt of his parents’ overbearing natures. He is instantly likable, charming, and relatable as any young person can identify with in trying to maintain his independence while also respecting his parents. Kate Katcher and Tony Rossi play Donald’s parents and make quite the electric pair as they are nothing short of domineering. With his close friends, Levi and Henrietta, by his side, Donald is able to concoct an elaborate story that he hopes will make his parents happy and one that he will be able to pull off without hurting anybody’s feelings. [more]

Underground Railroad Game

October 11, 2016

Sheppard recollected that in the Underground Railroad game his fifth grade classmates were designated to be either Union or Confederate soldiers. The Yankees (Union) tried to covertly run slaves (portrayed as “black dolls”) from a classroom “safe house” to another classroom “safe house.” The Rebels (Confederates) endeavored to prevent the Yanks from accomplishing their mission. The end goal was to secret slaves or dolls to Canada (a school lobby glass case filled with memorabilia served as Canada). [more]

Bears in Space

September 21, 2016

"Bears In Space" is a story-within-a- story. An interstellar archivist, who collects “every story in the universe,” enjoys having his sons (Bertram, Darcy and Lady Susan Vernon) regularly act out his favorite tales. The Story Keeper, as the archivist is known, invites the audience to “bear” witness to the telling of one of his prized narratives from his galactic library -- "Bears In Space." The celebrated Irish theatre company, Collapsing Horse, employ their adept puppetry, comedic talents, linguistic prowess (including the fine art of punning and utilizing malapropisms to artistic advantage), and clever music making "Bears In Space" a delightful farce for puppet, improv, Disney and Simpsons’ enthusiasts alike. [more]

Dell’Arte Opera Ensemble: Verdi’s La Traviata & Chansons de Baudelaire

September 19, 2016

The performance of Verdi's "La Traviata" featuring Bonnie Frauenthal as Violetta and Jose Heredia as Alfredo Germont was wonderful in many ways. Frauenthal sang and acted her complex role compellingly: she is a confident singer, capable of both womanly sturdiness and subtle virtuosity, and she inhabited the dense narrative of Violetta's story credibly and compellingly. Heredia's youthful and earnest Alfredo was also convincing; his deep love of Violetta and grief at her death were poignantly believable. Interestingly, as an actor, Heredia stuck so literally to the movement of Alfredo's character in Piave's libretto that Alfredo's subservience to his father was maddening: the son's filial weakness undercut the manliness of his love for Violetta. Both Frauenthal and Heredia sang with integrity; they held nothing back from full commitment to either their roles or their audience. [more]

Dead Shot Mary

September 19, 2016

While proud of how she is portrayed in the press, as a woman who couldn’t be broken, McPhee delves beneath the surface to illustrate how Shanley really felt once she returned to an empty apartment at the end of the day -- with her beloved dog as her only real company. Like everyone else, she experiences confusion, loneliness, and pain and only can hope that her good choices and desire to help mankind outweigh the mistakes that she has made. [more]

Blossom

September 13, 2016

Lott employs skillful puppetry, complementary video projections, innovative lighting and novel sound design to show the transitions between the present and make-believe. Five puppeteers (Robert Stevenson, Jamie Agnello, Rowan Magee, Chelsea Fryer, and Sam Jay Gold) carefully and exactingly portray the slow but sure disintegration of Blossom's mind. Real-time and imaginary time are each given their own set pieces through which Blossom explores memories and in-the-moment relationships. [more]

Bachelorette

September 13, 2016

This comedy revival of Leslye Headland’s 2010 play, that was adapted for the 2012 film of the same name, "Bachelorette," is as caustic and outrageous as ever. While looking ahead to a wedding day is supposed to generate feelings of excitement and bliss as women band together to stand by their girlfriend as she prepares to say “I Do,” this is often times not the case with several different personalities in the same room. It can be a very stressful time as emotions heighten and feelings get hurt, and "Bachelorette" humorously and dramatically represents this experience as three girls meet up to celebrate the night before their friend’s wedding in a swanky hotel suite. [more]

Caught

August 31, 2016

The beauty of Chen’s technique lies in engaging the audience in a guessing game that they don’t immediately know they are a part of – presenting them with certain messages that appear to be true, but challenge them to think about it from a different perception. One of the main themes is examining the different viewpoints between the Chinese and American cultures and how perceptions can be skewed. The result is a clever and eye-opening puzzle that teaches important lessons around the human experience in a shocking way by offering extremes. [more]

To Protect the Poets (The New York International Fringe Festival 2016)

August 21, 2016

"To Protect the Poets" shows how readily lines can be crossed when “street justice” is employed, instead of the judicial system. This first-rate, timely and intelligent play is a just representation of how two people who love each other deal with violent crimes against women and police brutality. [more]

Max Chernin on His Solo Debut at Feinstein’s/54 Below and the Impact of “Bright Star”

August 10, 2016

In college, during my senior year, I had an assignment to put together a half hour cabaret. I did that also about being a redhead, so I started there and dug up that old sheet music and changed/added to some of that. I’m covering some iconic gingers in musical theatre as well as some of the social aspects of being a ginger -- some of the things that "South Park" brought up. There’s this episode where they claim that gingers have no souls and make fun of them, so will be referencing and challenging those views. It’ll also be some stories and some of my favorite songs. [more]

Alice in Black and White

August 9, 2016

"Alice in Black and White" is a play-within-a-play. Two parallel stories are told: one of Austen’s life and relationship with Gertrude Tate, her companion for over 40 years; and one in the early 1950’s involving a Staten Island Historical Society receptionist and journalist Oliver Jensen, who later published "The Revolt of the American Woman" (which included Austen photographs) and a Life magazine article on Austen. [more]

Paradiso: Chapter 1

August 6, 2016

A new media and sophisticated ticket booking system is brought into play even before the play begins. In order to buy tickets, a theatergoer has to give out his/her cell phone number for text follow-up information as to confirmation of time and the Midtown location. The immersive theater is kept secret until the day of booking the event. The address of where "Paradiso: Chapter 1" is being held is texted only four hours before the participant’s allotted time. [more]

Men on Boats

August 2, 2016

In this swashbuckling comedic play, 'Men on Boats" takes an innovative approach by casting ten women in the roles of the first “white” discovers of the Grand Canyon. However, this was not a nod to the current trend of casting cisgender or transgender actors. The use of “on boats,” instead of “in boats,” indicates the state of being in which the actresses find themselves — a history panorama where gender and race play little part. [more]

Butler

August 1, 2016

Taking place during the time of the Civil War, "Butler" is a tale of conscience, courage, and transcendence. As Major General Benjamin Butler, Ames Adamson has risen to power but is faced with a decision that could change the game for slavery in America. Many of the themes surrounding a nation divided such as injustice, prejudice, and lack of understanding remain extremely relevant today and are just as impactful with events occurring every day in our world. Instead of ignoring the issues or using power as the only weapon, Butler flips the script and uses empathy and understanding as a means to connect. [more]

Oslo

July 26, 2016

Bartlett Sher complements Rogers by punctuating the play with visual puns that substantially add to the drama and importance of the enfolding events. A dinner party at Mona and Larsen’s home is disturbed by two phone calls, ringing at the same time. Larsen fields a call from Israel and Mona takes a call from the P.L.O. Phone cords or wires are crossed, as Larsen and Mona exchange mouthpieces and try to arrange meetings and facilitate a place and time for the negotiations in Norway. [more]

Cabaret Spotlight: Two Good To Be True

July 17, 2016

If you're stuck in the city in the hot summer, there's good reason to come to the cabaret. All the Manhattan clubs have impressive lineups for the summer months. Some of the most entertaining and musically refined engagements can be found at Feinstein's/54 Below as they offer rosters that are hard to top. Two recent engagements stand out. [more]

Katdashians! Break the Musical!

July 12, 2016

Under John Duff’s direction, this energetic group of performers get an A+ for accurately portraying their chosen characters. As KimKat, Carmen Mendoza is as self-centered as can be and let her queen status be known with “The Selfie Song,” while Elliott Brooks’ KhloeKat takes on the role of the black sheep of the family with her hysterical, crude and unfiltered persona shining through. As KrisKat, Bailey Nolan makes her mark as the creator of the litter known from the start and is just as domineering and commanding as you’d expect. Peter Smith, who is a supporting player in the Kardashians’ show, takes on the role of Bruce Jenner/Catlyn and tries to find his place among divas – getting his moment with the catchy, “Bruce Jenner (He's a Man's Man).” [more]

The Lost Ones: A New Musical

July 12, 2016

Karen Carpenter singing her song, We Have Only Just Begun (to live), sitting on a stool in the afterlife takes the meaning of ill-fated to a whole new level. However, Karen Carpenter, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain singing Karen and Richard Carpenter’s number one hit, Top of the World, brought the house down. The staging of whom sang what verse and when was priceless. And, Greg Schlotthauer’s musical direction is inspired. [more]

Phoenix Rising: Girls and the Secrets We Keep

July 10, 2016

"Phoenix Rising: Girls and the Secrets We Keep" takes place in two worlds: the New York CBGB punk scene of 1985, and a dark, Greek mythological other world of indeterminate time and place. In 1985, a high school social worker by the name of Grace mentors an after-school, trauma therapy session. In the other world, the Archetypal Mother/Storyteller presides over her “damaged souls” and reads from an ancient tome, the “Phoenix Book.” [more]

PRISM Quartet Color Theory: Sō Percussion and PARTCH

July 7, 2016

Over the last several years, PRISM and two colleague chamber groups, Sō Percussion on the one hand and PARTCH on the other, have been engaged in the “Color Theory” project, and presented two separate concerts. Taking as their model early modern visual artists' examination of pigment mixes through the insights of Isaac Newton's discovery of color theory and prisms, the four saxophonists and composers with whom they collaborate have been using “color theory as a framework to explore the spectra that make up instrumental sound.” The results were exhilarating. [more]

Himself and Nora

June 29, 2016

James Joyce most always put himself first, according to Jonathan Brielle, who wrote the book, music and lyrics for "Himself and Nora," (subtitled “The Greatest Love Story Never Told”), Minetta Lane Theatre’s new Off-Broadway musical. Brielle explores the narcissistic and codependent 37-year relationship between James Joyce and Nora Barnacle (who later became Joyce’s wife). For a purported love story that defined a genius and mesmerized Joyce enthusiasts for ages, the two-act musical is lightweight with minimal literary biographical details. [more]

Legendary Actress and Singer Rita McKenzie on a Career That Has Taken a Jersey Girl All Over the World

June 28, 2016

Growing up in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey, Rita McKenzie never imagined the places that her career would take her. Traveling all over the world with "Ethel Merman’s Broadway," McKenzie has shared the life and career of an international superstar with audiences from different cultures and backgrounds who continue to honor her legacy. Along the way, McKenzie has also made discoveries about herself and her desire to always keep growing and learning in an ever-changing world. [more]

C4: Choral Composer/Conductor Collective: Organic – New Works for Choir and Organ

June 28, 2016

C4 has always been driven by certain core values and goals; the particular repertoire “cornerstones” being emphasized this season, as indicated in the concert's program notes, were important but infrequently performed works, beauty, and the nurturing of new composers' voices. This concert contained all these features in both recent works and four premieres. [more]

Cabaret journalist/actor Andrew Martin found dead in his home on June 7, 2016

June 9, 2016

A chatty, openly gay bon vivant over the years, Andrew Martin had his feet in many waters; all of them related to show business. He was proud of his long-winded stories and exceptional knowledge of trivia about the famous and infamous. He had many followers on Facebook where he shared sometimes painful stories of his family and personal angst. He wrote openly about being troubled by strained relations within a divided family at times. [more]
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