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Musicals

Lili Marlene

August 19, 2017

The songs never come up to the title song made famous by Marlene Dietrich who’s mentioned several times during the play. Antin’s attempt at playful seduction, “Take Me Home Tonight,” sung by the half-dressed cabaret girls and his German-style drinking song, “Fill My Stein with Beer” are pleasant pastiche, but “How Can Germany Survive?” (sung by the beleaguered Willi) and “Time to Stand Up” (sung by Josef) are heavy-handed and obvious. The lyrics throughout, even in the love songs are of the “moon-June” variety, but, as mentioned, are sung with great feeling. [more]

Trinkets

August 15, 2017

Antyon LeMonte, Honey Davenport, Jay Knowles and Kevin Aviance in a scene from “Trinkets” [more]

Jerry’s Girls

August 8, 2017

The revival at the York is being seen in yet a new version of the show that began as a cabaret in 1981 and went to Broadway in 1985. Created by director Larry Alford, choreographer Wayne Alford and composer Herman, the original show included new songs written especially for the show, only one of which remains in the revival. However, as directed by Pamela Hunt ("The Musical of Musicals"), this version of "Jerry’s Girls" organizes the songs more faithfully by around each show and includes the greatest hits from "Hello, Dolly!," "Mack and Mabel," "Milk and Honey," "Mame," two numbers from "Dear World," and ending with a medley from "La Cage aux Folles." Along the way are also two unfamiliar numbers from Herman’s 1960’s revue "Parade." [more]

Curvy Widow

August 6, 2017

While the dialogue offers some stabs at humor and Opel--a first-rate comedienne of the old school--usually excels at comic timing, much of it falls flat here. Most of the 90-minute, intermission-less piece focuses, naturally enough, on Bobby’s attempts to create a new life for herself, ultimately meaning a new relationship. It’s during her second visit with the shrink that he says, “I’m making getting laid a medical directive”-- to which Bobby replies, “Can you do that?” effectively ending the scene. [more]

Georama: An American Panorama Told on Three Miles of Canvas

August 5, 2017

Book writers West Hyler and Matt Schatz have taken these facts and woven a charming piece of Americana that explores idealism coming up against cynicism. It’s very well structured, amusing and thoughtful. There are a few zingers that could be interpreted as referring to President Trump.  Their chief conceit is having Banvard’s early associate Taylor, later become Barnum, and their rivalry becomes a focal point of the show. [more]

Backbeard: The Musical

August 4, 2017

Matthew McElligott, Larry Tuxbury and Brian Sheldon’s book is a witty, smart and sharp take on pirate lore laced with a child’s sense of individuality, tolerance and inclusivity.  It’s adapted from Mr. McElligott’s acclaimed series of children’s books. McElligott, Mr. Tuxbury and Michael Musial’s lyrics are quite accomplished and chock of full of crafty rhymes such as scarf with barf.  Mr. Musial’s euphorically tuneful music completes the marvelous score, that’s perfectly rendered by Barbara Musial’s skillful music direction. [more]

Money Talks: The Musical

July 24, 2017

The genial Ralph Byers’ performance as Franklin is heroic as he is onstage for virtually the entire length of the show. Mr. Byers marvelously sings, dances and cracks wise, while channeling the familiar Franklin persona with his wry vocal delivery. Byers exudes dignity, serenity and focus despite the deficient material. [more]

Night Tide

July 22, 2017

Mora works as a mermaid in a tank at the sideshow owned by the crusty, old Captain Murdock who rescued and raised her. As her romance with Johnny blossoms, there are complications. Her previous two boyfriends died under mysterious circumstances. An ominous woman in black mills about and there’s a fortuneteller looming over the action, as the plot builds to a tragic finale. There is also the possibility that Mora is a real mermaid. [more]

Matthew McConaughey vs. The Devil: An American Myth

July 15, 2017

Vamping and slinking around in a bright, red tunic laden with rhinestones and wearing black tights, the vivacious Lesli Margherita steals and salvages the show as Mephistopheles. With the physical allure of the young Gina Gershon and the musical comedy talents of the young Donna Murphy, and her own quirky persona, Ms. Margherita is commanding.  It’s a proverbial case of “I couldn’t take my eyes off her,” and “everything she said and did got a laugh.” [more]

Errol and Fidel

July 15, 2017

Conveying the premature decrepitness of Errol Flynn with flair is Jonathan Stewart. His hair styled and with a thin mustache, the charming Mr. Stewart resembles Flynn and channels his dissolute persona and good humor with a melodious, slight Australian accent. The bearded and youthful George Psomas totally captures the look and essence of the early Fidel Castro with his edgy bearing.  Combining sensuality, a lush singing voice and superior comic timing, Mr. Psomas is delightful.  He and Stewart’s scenes together energize the show, particularly their clash near the end. [more]

Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie

July 14, 2017

Physically lean, with gaunt but animated features, the immensely charming David M. Lutken plays the narrator and sings many of the numbers. Mr. Lutken magnificently captures the essence of Guthrie with his wry twang, beaming smile and dramatic presence. This dimension is complete when he puts on a blue cap like Guthrie’s iconic one. That image is on display onstage, with a cigarette dangling from the side of Guthrie’s mouth. [more]

Bastard Jones

July 9, 2017

Bastard Jones is surprisingly accessible for a contemporary musical based on a long and episodic 18th century novel. Sophisticated and off-color, naughty but nice, it proves to be a sharp and irreverent entertainment. With a terrific cast and a star making performance by Evan Ruggiero, witty and clever, Bastard Jones is both a delightful 18th century and 21st century evening in the theater. [more]

Me the People: The Trump America Musical

July 2, 2017

The animated and charismatic Mr. Spitaletta is the standout of the cast, vibrantly appearing in numerous roles.  Highlights of his portrayals are a commanding Russian agent spoofing Danny Kaye’s tongue-twisting patter number "Tschaikowsky (and Other Russians)" from Kurt Weil’s "Lady in The Dark," and a rollicking caricature of Richard Nixon. Mr. Spitaletta is an ever-present delight. [more]

Bella: An American Tall Tale

June 20, 2017

Featuring an energetic, game cast headed by bigger-than-life Ashley D. Kelley as the title character, "Bella" follows this “big booty Tupelo girl,” as she travels (under an assumed last name) to meet her staid fiancé, Buffalo Soldier Aloysius T. Honeycutt (handsome, sweet voiced Britton Smith) and to escape the law.  She meets a slew of fascinating characters—some who really existed and some fictitious—and finds her life taking a surprising turn in her bumpy road to marital bliss. [more]

Attack of the Elvis Impersonators

June 19, 2017

Lazarus’ score is an entertaining blend of rock, pop and show tunes.   None of Elvis Presley’s actual songs are heard, but there are a number of clever takeoffs such as “Viva Milwaukee!” and “Spread the Word of Hound Dog.” His good-natured book is a shambles.  The serious, campy and satirical elements don’t connect.  The plot is crammed and wayward.  It recalls the 1960’s "Batman" television show as well as counterculture fantasies such as the 1968 film "Wild in The Streets" and Brian De Palma’s movie, "The Phantom of The Paradise." [more]

Sweetee

June 10, 2017

"Sweetee" is an admirable attempt to depict determination in the face of prejudice in the Deep South 80 years ago. While the cast appears to be older than their characters, they make a valiant attempt to make more out of the material than the show has going for it. Unfortunately, "Sweetee" seems rather thin considering the possibilities inherent in the story line. The score is pleasant but innocuous and unmemorable, always a deal breaker in a musical. Ironically, the most effective musical numbers are the actual interpolated hymns: "Amazing Grace," "This Little Light of Mine," and "Joyful, Joyful." [more]

The Boy Who Danced On Air

May 27, 2017

It is set in present-day rural Afghanistan. Several years earlier, Paiman as a child was sold by his father to the well to do Jahandar. The two have an intense emotional and physical involvement that must soon cease, as Paiman is soon to marry because he is approaching manhood. Feda, Zemar, the dancing boy of Zemar, Jahandar’s droll, and mean cousin, is also aging out. Paiman and Feda fall in love and that instigates several conflicts. [more]

Pacific Overtures

May 23, 2017

The playing space designed by Doyle is a narrow white runway with a stool at one end and at the other, an archway created by continuing the flooring into the air on which Japanese writing appears as on a banner. The audience sits in stadium-type seating on either side of the playing space. Eschewing pageantry, the production puts the cast in very bland outfits of black, grey, white, blue or beige (costumes by Ann Hould-Ward), adding fabric or robes when absolutely necessary. The lighting by Jane Cox occasionally bathes the stage in either red or blue mood lights. [more]

Spamilton

May 18, 2017

Chris Anthony Giles, Nicholas Edwards, Dan Rosales, Juwan Crawley and Nora Schell (original cast) [more]

The View UpStairs

May 15, 2017

On the fourth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in 1973, an arsonist set fire to a gay bar in New Orleans, killing 32 people. This tragic yet forgotten episode in gay history is not only part of a Harvey Fierstein monologue in "Gently Down the Stream"—currently playing at the Public Theater--but also the subject of "The View UpStairs," a new Off Broadway musical that has a lot of spark, but ultimately not enough fire. [more]

The Golden Apple

May 13, 2017

Handsome musical theater leading man Ryan Silverman is a commanding Ulysses with his operatic singing. Jeff Blumenkrantz is marvelously humorous and pitiful as Menelaus, Helen’s jilted husband. N’Kenge is fierce and bewitching as Mother Hare, a soothsayer-like figure. Ashley Brown is wonderfully comic as the mayor’s wife. Though silent as Paris, the youthful Barton Cowperthwaite’s superior ballet skills make a great impression. [more]

Ernest Shackleton Loves Me

May 12, 2017

McCollum is both charming and charismatic playing among other characters the self-entitled and irresponsible Bruce, the hippie techie Sal, Kat’s spaced-out boss Madison, and the intrepid and heroic Shackleton, although at first it is not obvious that he is all of these characters. It is a bravura performance showing tremendous range as he makes each one entirely different. Vigoda is another story. Her Kat is plucky but is mainly a device to get Shackleton to tell his story. We never learn much about her and she never changes as the adventure unfolds. Her violin playing is excellent but it is a bit of a distraction from her other activities in the musical. [more]

Bandstand

May 11, 2017

All the actors in the band play their instruments with panache and perfect period style, including Cott whose piano doodling is terrific. James Nathan Hopkins plays the cute, upbeat saxophonist, Jimmy Campbell; Brandon J. Ellis, the joking teddy bear of a guy, Davy Zlatic, the bassist; Alex Bender, the intensely dramatic trumpeter, Wayne Wright; Geoff Packard, the germ phobic trombonist, Wayne Wright; and Joe Carroll as Johnny Simpson, the percussionist who survived a scary accident during the War. [more]

Marry Harry

May 8, 2017

The two leads David Spadora and Morgan Cowling are charming but that isn’t really enough to carry the show. The script isn’t too kind to their parents. As Big Harry, Lenny Wolpe is overbearing and possessive and as Sherri’s mom Francine, Robin Skye is controlling and possessive. Both are quite convincing and unpleasant – just as the script wants them to be. As the Village Voices, Chavez, Manocherian and Saunders demonstrate tremendous versatility playing all sorts of roles and are excellent singers. [more]

Groundhog Day

May 6, 2017

Mr. Karl gives a captivating performance that’s a whirlwind of energy, charisma and exceptional singing and dancing.  It’s a commanding star turn that cannot quite compensate for the show’s hollowness.  When getting dressed in the mornings, Karl’s leg brace was visible at the performance attended.  This was the result of an injury that he had on April 14, 2017, while performing, near the end of the show. [more]

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

May 1, 2017

But the Broadway version of Charlie doesn’t really come alive until we’re introduced to Augustus Gloop (F. Michael Hayne), the fat little German boy who finds the first of the five gold tickets, and whose mother (Kathy Fitzgerald) sings along with him--as wurst links burst forth from his pockets, and the almost always, lively choreography by Joshua Bergasse, suddenly features clogging steps, with dirndls and lederhosen. [more]

War Paint

April 27, 2017

Written by the same team that created the musical version of "Grey Gardens" (Doug Wright, book, Scott Frankel, music, and Michael Korie, lyrics) which gave Ebersole the two best roles of her career, the new show is absorbing, elegant and urbane hewing closely to the facts while at times compressing time and offering a few composite characters. Suggested by the joint biography "War Paint" by Lindy Woodhead and the documentary film, "The Powder and the Glory," the musical tells the parallel stories of the rivalry and careers of these two remarkable women from the 1935 to 1964. As they are never reported to have met, Wright’s book for the musical either alternates their lives or uses a split stage effect to show us both at the same time in their own milieu. Occasionally, they lunch at the St. Regis at the same time but avoid meeting each other seated on their own banquettes. [more]

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]
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