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Musicals

The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical

April 15, 2017

Theaterworks NYC’s stage version of Rick Riordan’s best-selling novel, "The Lighting Thief," about Percy Jackson and other demi-gods, first seen in 2014, has returned in an expanded two act format that, from reaction of the audience at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, is sure to become a cult musical. This fast-paced fantasy-adventure story would not seem to be destined for the stage due to the number of special effects needed to tell the story. However, designer Lee Savage and other technicians have come up with a series of clever low tech solutions which are always inventive and always witty. Using masks, puppets and elaborate costuming, five members of the cast of seven play multiple roles which often require quick changes. [more]

Amélie

April 10, 2017

"Amélie" is frustrating. The characters exist as two-dimensional cartoons that a talented cast almost brings to life. The uneven rhythms and poor timing of the show bog it down. An inability to find stage equivalents for the film’s gimmickry also hurts. It does have a game cast who vie with undistinguished songs, choreography and staging. Finally, there is Phillipa Soo who radiates warmth amidst the disarray. [more]

Miss Saigon

April 9, 2017

The scenic design with original concept by the late Adrian Vaux, production design by Totie Driver & Matt Kinley, and projections by Luke Halls is as eye-filling as a movie would be. The new helicopter scene during the evacuation of Saigon uses both scenery and video in a breathtaking stage effect. Connor makes excellent use of the cinematic and realistically three-dimensional sets in moving his crowds around to completely populate the stage picture. Bruno Poet’s lighting varies from shadowy evening scenes, to romantic moonlit ones, to blatantly lit day time scenes. [more]

Du Barry Was a Lady

April 6, 2017

The show has a great many topical references to celebrities of 1939 (Minsky, Sophie Tucker, Tallulah Bankhead, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt) not all of whom still ring any bells for most theatergoers. Aside from the justly famous “Friendship,” which has also been interpolated into Anything Goes since the 1962 NY revival, the show is second-rate and unfamiliar Porter. Ironically, three of the songs (“It Ain’t Etiquette,” “Well, Did You Evah!” and “Friendship”) resurfaced in Peter Bogdanovich’s flop original movie musical, At Long Last Love, in 1975. The patter songs, “But in the Morning, No,” “Give Him the Oo-la-la,” “Well, Did you Evah!,” and “Katie Went to Haiti” have clever lyrics but are not up to Porter’s usual standard. [more]

Diva: Live From Hell

April 4, 2017

"Diva: Live From Hell," an energetic, campy variation on the “All About Eve” theme, is performed with manic glee by Sean Patrick Monahan who also wrote the book and created all the colorful characters. His partner in crime is Alexander Sage Oyen who provided the music and lyrics. Sex (requited and unrequited), ugly violence and dark humor are all thrown into the story which is told by Desmond Channing (Monahan, who also plays virtually a high school’s worth of characters). [more]

Joan of Arc: Into the Fire

April 1, 2017

Don’t blame singer Jo Lampert who gives a passionate performance as the Maid of Orleans. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been given anything very interesting to sing in this mostly sung-through musical. Her lyrics are trite and repetitious. She may have been a teenager, but there is no reason to have written lyrics that continue to sound like they were written by a junior high school student attempting his or her first songs. The endlessly repeated refrains do not serve to make Joan seem more simple and holy but sound like a lack of imagination. The minimal spoken dialogue is used for the various narrators and the trial testimony taken from the actual transcript of the event. [more]

The New Yorkers: A Sociological Musical Satire

March 29, 2017

Herbert Fields’s book was based on a story by E. Ray Goetz and New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno. This clunky concert adaptation by Jack Viertel is crammed with double entendres, puns, anachronisms, and contemporary inside jokes that mostly thud. [more]

Anything Goes

March 20, 2017

The score which has been drawn from the four previous New York productions of Anything Goes plays like a Cole Porter greatest hits parade and almost all of the songs are among his most popular masterpieces. Played by a three piece combo expertly led by Christopher Stephens, the show has just the right syncopated thirties sound, while the perfect diction on the part of the large cast makes every lyric a gem. The dazzling production numbers which often evolve into precision tap dances with most of the 18 member cast trapping in unison are as dazzling as Jack Maisenbach’s brightly colored, coordinated costumes. This excellently cast production has dancers, singers, comedians and character actors all work at the top of their game. [more]

Come From Away

March 16, 2017

The songs push the plot along, ranging from numbers about the locals’ dealing with valuable resources (“Blankets and Bedding”) to the quiet awe the visitors express at the local scenery (“Darkness and Trees”). “Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere” and “Something’s Missing,” eloquently deal with the short-term emotional turbulence that eventually steadied to mutual admiration and many long-term friendships. [more]

Kid Victory

March 6, 2017

It would be difficult to imagine anything darker than the content of the second musical collaboration by John Kander and Greg Pierce having its New York premiere at the Vineyard Theatre. Possibly Kander’s own"Cabaret" or "The Visit" - but both take place long ago and in faraway lands. Kid Victory relates the tale of a 17-year-old youth who was kidnapped for a year and has returned to his Kansas family. All the members of the community want to behave as though nothing has changed but for Luke Browst nothing is the same and things can’t go back to the way there were before. [more]

Louisiana Purchase

March 4, 2017

Based on a story by lyricist/bookwriter/producer B.G. DeSylva (“Good News,” “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” “The Varsity Drag”), this musical satire sends unworldly, teetotaler Oliver P. Loganberry, “the Watchdog of the Senate,” to New Orleans to investigate the corrupt dealings of the Louisiana Purchasing Company run by Jimmy Taylor, Colonel Davis, Junior Davis, Dean Manning of the university, and Captain Whitfield of the city government. Jimmy, the president of the company, who was out of town when the others used his powers of attorney for their illegal scheme, is left to sort out the mess. [more]

Dear World

March 1, 2017

Having played such indomitable women as Mama Rose and Maria Callas, Daly slips into the role of the Madwoman of Chaillot which fits her like a glove with her crisp, authoritative delivery. As a woman who refuses to see reality for what it is, she gives a powerful rendition of “I Don’t Want to Know,” the show’s only hit song. She does a lovely job with the new number, “A Sensible Woman,” as well as the haunting ballad, “And I Was Beautiful.” [more]

Interview: A New Musical

February 28, 2017

Composer Soo Hyun Huh’s original music is a fine and eclectic assortment of modern melodies. The English lyrics are written by Bryan Michaels. The combined results are stilted and pedestrian. The score is primarily sung dialogue with some actual if indifferent songs. Mr. Michaels has also translated Jung Hwa Choo’s book into English. [more]

Sunset Boulevard

February 17, 2017

The score remains an uneven but catchy patchwork that has yielded several choice songs amidst the acceptable filler. Mr. Lloyd Webber’s music is a heady pastiche of old movie melodies with discernable portions of his" Evita" and "The Phantom of The Opera." Don Black and Christopher Hampton’s lyrics range from inspired to pedestrian. [more]

Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill: A Musical Voyage

February 15, 2017

One of the remarkable things about the theater songs of Kurt Weill is that like the later songs of Stephen Sondheim they are all really little one act plays which give the performers a great deal of latitude in how to perform them. As sung by Karl Josef Com, Rachel de Benedet, Michael Halling and Meghan Picerno and as narrated by Brian Charles Rooney, Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill is an extraordinary musical voyage through some of the greatest theater songs of all time written by among the best talents of the 20th century. [more]

Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

February 12, 2017

Red-haired, animated and engagingly boyish, 18-year-old Nicholas Barasch is sensational as Huckleberry Finn. Mr. Barasch is onstage virtually the entire time and winningly carries the show. As Jim, the runaway slave, Kyle Scatliffe brings dignity, forcefulness and powerful vocal ability during his commanding performance. [more]

Bound to Rise

February 9, 2017

Unfortunately, Policoff’s book is too cluttered with characters too allow for much development. While some of his lyrics are clever, most are prosaic and heavy-handed. As played by music directors Gregory Nissen and Jonathan Matthews, the score sound tinny, rather than melodic, for its 1890’s period. The direction by Oliver Conant, with an assist by Paul Murphy and Regan Batuello, is all over the place using various parts of the shabby (uncredited) set, so that it is too busy for its own good. This free-wheeling approach would be more suitable to a movie rather than the stage without a much strong hand in control. Occasionally the actors make a pithy remark about society or the political order and then freeze, starring at the audience. This Brechtian technique goes against the grain of the rest of the production, as does various character narrating themselves or others. [more]

Milk and Honey

January 30, 2017

While the jokes may be hoary, Unger’s production has cut down on the show’s sentimentality and given it a sharp edge which elevates the material. As the heroine Ruth, Runofsson is genuine, contemplative and sympathetic, while Delavan’s Phil is the strong silent type. They have the bulk of the songs and give lovely renditions of “There’s No Reason in the World,” “That Was Yesterday,” “Let’s Not Waste a Moment,” “As Simple As That.” Korey as the gossipy yente Clara Weiss who is free with her advice steals every scene she is in and gets to sing the clever ode to her late husband, “Hymn to Hymie” as well as lead the hilariously staged number, “Chin Up, Ladies” which includes witty audience participation. [more]

Love for Sale

January 26, 2017

The concept of Love for Sale, though not particularly original, is not a bad one, except for one very important factor: Ms. Burke is not up to either the singing or acting demands of Love for Sale, a voyage from innocence to jaded sophistication as told in mostly dark, melodramatic songs, ironically influenced by the American films that flooded Europe in the twenties and thirties. It’s an extraordinarily difficult repertoire that constantly threatens to be silly expressions of impossibly colorful and desperate characters. [more]

PEER GYNT & the Norwegian Hapa Band

January 24, 2017

A major flaw is Peer Gynt. Personable, co-composer Park plays the title role. When we first see him, he’s wearing a hipster wool cap, plaid shirt and eyeglasses. Possessed of a good singing voice, his acting ranges from pleasantly monotonous to ineptly excessive. He strains to be charismatic especially in his dance moves and doesn’t succeed. Park’s performance has stamina but lacks grandeur to carry the leading role of this full-length musical. [more]

Mark Felt, Superstar

January 10, 2017

Mr. Rosenblum’s dense book is a rudimentary and repetitive serio-comic treatment imparting the minutia of that cause célèbre. In 1972, burglars connected to Republican President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign broke into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in the Watergate building complex in Washington, D.C. This resulted into a calamitous scandal and inept cover-up causing a national crisis. Rosenblum’s treatment doesn’t totally succeed at tying together all of its complicated threads. [more]

Blueprint Specials

January 10, 2017

Never before seen on mainland U.S.A, the current show is an amalgam of the four existing shows ("P.F.C. Mary Brown;" "Hi, Yank!;" "About Face" and "OK, USA") of the six that were written. Directed and adapted by Tom Ridgely, co-artistic director of Waterwell, the entertaining show is a co-production of Waterwell in association with the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum under the auspices of the Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival. Performed on the hangar deck of the USS Intrepid just like it might have been done in 1944 or 1945, the show is a site-specific environmental production with limited scenery but using a combination of Broadway stars and featured players, Waterwell members, Active Duty U.S. military and veterans, and Reserve Special Members. The dance chorus is provided by the Limón Dance Company. [more]

Sweet Charity

December 28, 2016

The real reason to see the new "Sweet Charity," its third major New York revival, is for Sutton Foster’s bravura performance. Aside from nightclub singer Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, Foster has usually played innocent, clean-cut young women caught up in unusual situations. Here she again plays to type – but with a difference: Charity Hope Valentine works as a taxi dancer in a New York dance hall, a sleazy environment. However, she keeps her infectious innocence and her indomitable spirit despite one unfortunate romantic encounter after the other due to her gullibility. Under Leigh Silverman’s direction, Foster may just be the most convincing actress to ever play Charity. [more]

Life is for Living: Conversations with Coward

December 24, 2016

Green’s dry delivery is in the Coward manner, crisp, almost spoken to the music, with impeccable diction. Shrubsole’s accompaniment supports him without ever getting in the way. The most famous song is probably “I Went to a Marvelous Party,” and there are five songs from Coward’s last all-original Broadway musical "Sail Away." However, there are also unfamiliar songs from "After the Ball" (“Something on a Tray”) and" Pacific 1860" (“I Saw No Shadow”), London shows that never made it to Broadway. In addition is “London Pride,” recently heard in the rediscovered post-war musical, "Hoi Polloi." Stand-alone songs include the poignant “There’s No More to Say about Love” and “I Travel Alone.” [more]

Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway

December 23, 2016

We knew it was a great novel, but who knew Leo Tolstoy’s "War and Peace," Part I, would make such an exciting and innovative electro pop-rock opera? Not that the epic novel isn’t a fantastic read, but how to successfully put this 1,200 page novel on the stage? (Prokofiev’s opera needed 70 characters and 13 sequences.) First seen in 2012 for a sold-out 39 performance run at Ars Nova, this sung-through electro pop-rock opera, was then presented in 2013 at a supper club called Kazino (Russian for “Casino”) in the Meatpacking District, twice the size of the Ars Nova space, built specifically to house the show, and later it was moved uptown to a Kazino put up on 45th Street. [more]

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart

December 23, 2016

The Heath, The McKittrick Hotel’s restaurant, bar and music venue, has been dressed up with appropriate signs and objects such as a stuffed wolf to resemble a pub in Scotland. After the audience seat themselves, actors roam around and talk with them. They’re told to rip up the white napkins on the tables into little pieces. Later, they’ll be cued to throw them in the air to simulate a snowstorm for a cool effect. They’re also told that there are complimentary shots of whiskey at the bar where other drinks are sold. During the intermission, the staff offers small ham and cheese sandwiches. It’s all quite atmospheric. [more]

The Band’s Visit

December 17, 2016

Seven musicians of Egypt’s Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra have been sent to Israel to open the new Arab cultural center at Petah Tivah. Due to a mix up at the border, they end up in the dead-end desert town of Bet Hatikva which has no hotel, no culture, and no bus until the morning. However, their visit is the most interesting thing to happen in Bet Hatikva in years as these unlikely visitors represent something different from the outside world. Restaurant owner Dina (Lenk) once a dancer in a big city, now resigned to her boring fate, takes pity on them, feeds them and arranges for them to stay the night in three places including her home. She takes dour, formal conductor Tewfiq (Shalhoub) and young ladies’ man, Haled (Ari’el Stachel). Although the visit is only one night, none of them will ever be the same again. [more]

In Transit

December 16, 2016

The score by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth is a pleasant collection of serviceable songs. Their book, based on their original concept, is a workmanlike blueprint of peppy clichés. It does have topical references such as the Pizza Rat. The show lasts one hour and 40 minutes without an intermission and somewhat lags due to the familiar plot threads. [more]

A Bronx Tale

December 14, 2016

On Beowulf Boritt’s set of three apartment towers of fire escapes and store fronts, the musical begins with a doo-wop group singing a cappella in close harmony under a Belmont Avenue sign, setting a properly nostalgic mood. The musical follows the plotline of the original. The main character, the Chazz stand-in, is young Calogero, first seen as a youngster (a wonderfully unaffected Hudson Loverro) and then as a young man (handsome and passionate Bobby Conte Thornton), whose father Lorenzo (Richard H. Blake, totally believable) is a hard-working, honest bus driver and whose mother is a housewife Rosina (Lucia Giannetta who makes the most of a small part). [more]

The Portal

December 12, 2016

While the visual aid is being projected in the background, a rock concert/spectacle is taking place on stage in front of the screen, and this is--thankfully--more interesting that the latter content. Billy Lewis Jr. is the physical manifestation of Kelly’s Dante; a rock star whose belting is a metaphorical echo of his counterpart’s internal strife. Lewis Jr. is a natural at singing rock music, and his vocal prowess is a saving grace for the production. [more]

Ride the Cyclone

December 10, 2016

Rockwell who also choreographed has turned each of the songs into an extravagant, go-for-broke production number. Best are Wardell’s “Noel’s Lament” in which he reveals he wants to be Monique Gibeau, a French street walker in black lingerie à la Marlene Dietrich’s Lola Lola, and Misha’s rap number, “This Song is Awesome” which segues into “Talia,” in which he reveals his rage and passion. Rohm’s semi-operatic aria, “The Ballad of Jane Doe,” has her flying over the audience as she continues to sing. [more]

Finian’s Rainbow

November 28, 2016

Moore’s adaptation successfully uses the small, recently renovated stage of the Irish Repertory Theatre so that even with 13 actors the performance area always looks populated with the people of Rainbow Valley. James Morgan’s clever unit set is redolent of the South with its huge live oak draped above the stage. Mary Jo Dondlinger’s lighting is redolent of the warm southern sun as well as the cool evening moonlight. The four piece orchestra sits neatly tucked in the back of the stage without distracting from the performance. [more]

A Taste of Things to Come

November 25, 2016

During the first half of the 20th century, the perception of women and their place in society was archaic and harmful to say the least. In fact, it wasn’t until the late 1950’s that the widely accepted oversimplification of the role of women was truly called into question and brought under scrutiny. Documenting the influential and crucial decade between the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, Debra Barsha and Hollye Levin’s new musical "A Taste of Things to Come" is a very pointed yet enjoyable exploration of these transformative years for the housewife, told through the eyes of four women who have a common interest in cooking. [more]
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