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Musicals

The Day Before Spring

February 12, 2019

The York production has been directed and adapted by Marc Acito who has condensed the original two act script into a long one-acter. Realizing that the original setting of 1948 for a tenth year college reunion with no reference to W.W. II or returning veterans does not make a lot of sense, he has moved the romantic comedy plot up to 1959 with some new appropriate references to the fifties (Davy Crockett caps, McCarthyism). Although the story seems to flow well enough the new problem is that with the deletion of some of the plot and dialogue, the characters seem to have been reduced to one-dimensional stereotypes which gives the actors a great deal more to do in order to make them real. [more]

Betty and The Belrays

February 11, 2019

The creator of "Betty & The Belrays," now at the Theater for the New City, pretty much dares you to compare his well-meaning, but cartoony, new musical to Hairspray, a comparison in which the new musical fare poorly. Written—book and lyrics—and directed by William Electric Black, with music by Black, Valerie Ghent and Gary Schreiner, "Betty," like "Hairspray," tells the story of a white high school-aged girl, the eponymous Betty (Paulina Breeze), living in a racially divided city, here 1963 Detroit, where Motown and its distinctive style are being forged. [more]

Carmelina

January 31, 2019

Though not in the same class with Alan Jay Lerner’s masterpiece, "My Fair Lady," "Carmelina" has a similar theme: how a young woman reinvents herself. While the three soldiers are under the impression that they invented Carmelina Campbell in the classic Pygmalion and Galatea fashion, in fact Carmelina has reinvented herself, also a major theme in the Lerner canon, along with "Coco" and "Dance a Little Closer." This charming musical comedy also features a Tony Award nominated score which deserves a second and a third hearing. [more]

Clueless, The Musical

December 29, 2018

While "Clueless, The Musical" is never less than slick and professional in the best possible way, for those who know the iconic film it offers no surprises so slavishly does it follow the original storyline. What was charming in the 1995 movie about Cher’s sense of superiority and wishing to help others less fortunate is no longer as acceptable. What was amusing in the era of excess now seems selfish, elitist, and an example of extravagant wastefulness. Alicia Silverstone’s appeal in the film doesn’t carry over to the musical where Dove Cameron, Disney star of Liv and Maddie, comes across as spoiled rotten by her wealthy single parent father who has given her pretty much everything she wants.  [more]

The Prom

December 28, 2018

"The Prom" is giving Broadway something it’s been lacking for years, which is a high-spirited, old-fashioned musical comedy, where the cast’s energy spills out over the footlights, and is then reflected in all the smiling faces you encounter as you leave the theater. It’s the equivalent of a standing ovation that moves out into the streets. [more]

The Mendelssohn Electric

December 24, 2018

Intended for young people and their families, the jokey dialogue will amuse teenagers as well as teach them about the glass ceiling that talented women have had to fight against up until the present. The characters make clever reference to such modern music stars as Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, Berry Gordy, Hall & Oates, while older patrons will recognize the names of earlier music titans Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Rachmaninoff. Among Townsend’s clever devices are choosing members of the audience to play additional characters, and using empty picture frames held up to people’s faces as stand-ins for Hensel’s portraits. [more]

All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914

December 23, 2018

But these speeches are only a part of the soundscape. The production is suffused with music—all of it a cappella vocalizing by the cast. We hear barracks songs, patriotic songs, hymns and drinking songs—and, of course, Christmas carols. Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach’s arrangements are exceptionally rich and intricate. The singer-actors weave a choral spell that is not soon forgotten. One could try to single out certain cast members or singers as exceptional, but this is truly the quintessential ensemble show. That such fine singers could also take on multiple speaking roles—portraying Britons, Irishmen, Scots, Welshmen, Germans, and others so convincingly—is impressive indeed. [more]

Christmas in Hell

December 19, 2018

The holiday season is in for an irreverent satirizing in Gary Apple’s musical comedy "Christmas in Hell," a rude and entertaining fable for adults. With book, music and lyrics by Apple, a writer/producer for television, the show now being produced by The York Theatre Company is a diverting antidote to all the mindlessly clichéd holiday cheer that is everywhere. With some clever lyrics, hummable tunes and a colorful cast of characters, "Christmas in Hell" is a delightful little musical parody which is a change of pace for the season before us. It does require a good deal of suspension of belief of both kinds. [more]

The Cher Show

December 17, 2018

Elice is no stranger to biographical musicals.  His "Jersey Boys" is still running off-Broadway.  Here he was inspired to divide the eponymous character into three personalities:  the Star (the sensational, charismatic Stephanie J. Block), the current, living legend; the Lady (Teal Wicks, fascinating in this bridge role), the mid-career Cher; and the Babe (Micaela Diamond in a gutsy, eager performance) the young Cher just discovering herself guided by her Svengali, Sonny Bono (Jarrod Spector, not a physical match to Bono, but a fine singer and actor). [more]

The Apple Boys: A Barbershop Quartet Musical

December 13, 2018

The world premiere of "The Apple Boys: A Barbershop Quartet Musical" is a delightful show that pays tribute to this uniquely American art form. In a mash-up of history it also recognizes a great many famous New Yorkers placing them at Coney Island or Central Park at the same time. With a clever book by Jonothon Lyons (one of the quartet of talented actors who appear in the show) and melodic music and lyrics by Ben Bonnema, The Apple Boys is great fun with ample puns that almost get by you, accomplished close harmony by its cast of four playing all 40 characters, and a plot so far-fetched that it could have been true in the manner of tall tales. [more]

The Hello Girls

December 12, 2018

One of the beauties of the book by Mills and Reichel is that all of the characters in the large dramatis personae are very well defined and we have no trouble knowing who is who. Reichel’s direction and staging make the characterizations clear and consistent. Fishman’s Grace is efficient, fair-minded and heroic, always coming up with good ideas to make sure that things run more smoothly and we root for her throughout the story. As the assured, ambitious Suzanne, Skyler Volpe is very feisty, witty and acerbic, in the manner of an Eve Arden role. Chanel Karimkhani’s Helen, the farm girl, is constantly getting into trouble, not least of which is her problem being late most of the time and her naïveté and lack of sophistication. As the oldest operator and a married woman, Lili Thomas’ Bertha is a rock of stability when others are falling apart. Cathryn Wake’s very French Louise is a firecracker, always speaking her mind - even if it gets her into trouble. Christine O’Grady’s choreography for the dance hall scenes for the women and the doughboys is redolent of ballroom dances of the period. The show’s one flaw is that there is not enough tension until almost the very end when the war comes a little too close for comfort. [more]

Ruben & Clay’s Christmas Show

December 12, 2018

Except for “Santa Baby” and “The Little Drummer Boy,” virtually every Christmas song in existence is wonderfully performed during the pleasant holiday extravaganza, Ruben & Clay's Christmas Show (aka Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show).  Even the now controversial "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is heard though revised lyrics. [more]

A Child’s Christmas in Wales (2018)

December 9, 2018

It’s a very presentational show. The six ensemble members comprise a sort of group narrator, working in tandem to relate the memories of the Thomas character for the audience—sometimes sorting out how it all really happened and sometimes taking on the roles of characters from the memories. Nicholas Barasch plays wide-eyed “Dylan,” who is totally swept up in holiday magic. Naomi Louisa O’Connell is his mother and Dewey Caddell his father. Extended family and friends are played by Margaret Dudasik, Polly McKie and Ashley Robinson. [more]

Shadows: A Dance Musical

December 4, 2018

The flier for "Shadows," subtitled "A Dance Musical," calls it “a Gothic ghost love story,” adding, “It’s Twyla Tharp meets Stephen King.”  If only. "Shadows," written by Randall David Cook (book) and Edison Woods, Maxim Moston and Karen Biskho (music and lyrics) and choreographed and directed by Joey McKneely, does tell a love story and does have a good deal of dancing, but the eerie romance doesn’t rise to the complex Gothic levels of Stephen King and the choreography is far less creative than Twyla Tharp’s. [more]

King Kong

November 20, 2018

Designed by Johnny Tilders, the puppet Kong is phenomenal, a 20-foot tall, 2,000 pound marionette operated by the ten-person King’s Company, members of the cast assigned to operating the arms, legs and body of Kong, with the facial expressions controlled by exacting machinery that endows this artificial creation with real emotions.  The roaring and other vocalizations are amplifications of the offstage voice of Jon Hoche.  The results are not just fascinating, but eminently entertaining and even moving. [more]

The Other Josh Cohen

November 18, 2018

Cute, whimsical and lightly enjoyable, the musical "The Other Josh Cohen" is hampered by its lack of a compelling plot. “This is the story of a strange piece of mail that changed my life.” After his apartment is robbed, a young New York City schlemiel receives a check from a distant relative for $56,000. This inspires a picaresque set of adventures with Neil Diamond popping up and romance along the way. [more]

The Book of Merman

November 7, 2018

The witty score with music and lyrics by Schwartz is a collection of both pastiche songs based on numbers Merman made famous and new ones that fit her style that suggest other famous songs. Directed and choreographed by Joe Langworth in a brisk and breezy fashion, "The Book of Merman" is a diverting, entertaining show that will be best enjoyed by musical comedy aficionados who know their Merman from their Mary Martin as there are a great many in-jokes. [more]

Inner Voices 2018

November 4, 2018

Three original one-act solo-performer musicals comprise "Inner Voices 2018," presented by the Premieres theater company. Since 2008 they’ve produced several editions of this enterprise. The format was inspired by British playwright Alan Bennett’s 1980’s and 1990’s acclaimed "Talking Heads," which were a series of 13 separate monologues that were originally broadcast on television and subsequently adapted for the stage. Here, the monologues are set to music and it’s cumulatively pleasing. [more]

Renascence

October 30, 2018

In her own time, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950) was a rock star and a best-selling author until illness and postwar culture dimmed her luster. Still she fascinates with her bohemian lifestyle, beauty, love affairs with both men and women, feminist views, and effortless sounding poetry. In recent years, her life has again obsessed biographers and playwrights in such works as "Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay" (2001), "Becoming Vincent" (2013) and "What Lips My Lips Have Kissed: The Loves and Love Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay" (2014). Add to this list the adventurous Transport Group’s world premiere musical "Renascence," with book by Dick Scanlan and lyrics from Millay’s own poems set to music by Carmel Dean. Unfortunately, the new show is often arch and pretentious and the musical settings are entirely in the wrong style for Millay’s lyrics from the 1920’s. [more]

Love, Linda

October 29, 2018

Elegantly inhabiting the small Triad stage, Holland’s Linda is clearly a class act, with a smooth, rich, dark voice.  Hearing her tale of their days in the twenties cruising the high points of Europe, the culturally historical figures they carouse with—including Diaghilev, Chanel and Stravinsky—and Cole’s early successes are fascinating:  cue “Ours,” “I Love Paris,” “Miss Otis Regrets” (written for the legendary Bricktop in whose boîte the Porters hangs out with their fun-loving, rich friends) and the adorable “Scampi,” the triumphant tale of a mischievous shrimp. [more]

Ordinary Days

October 24, 2018

Adam Gwon’s song cycle, "Ordinary Days," became a cult hit when it opened the Roundabout’s Black Box Theatre in 2009 for a run of ten weeks. So successful was the show that it is one of the few Off Broadway musicals of its era to have an original cast album. As so few people were able to see the show, there has been a need for a major revival which Keen Company is now presenting at The Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row. While creating a show about commonplace moments offers its own problems, director Jonathan Silverstein’s choices have created new ones. [more]

Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future 

October 17, 2018

For the first 25 minutes, the bushy red-bearded, receding with flowing hair Mr. Butler appears solo performing a series of his delightful songs. Butler superbly plays the banjo, guitar and harmonica as he conveys a Cat Stevens, Arlo Guthrie and Bob Dylan vibe. Then the ensemble joins him for a serious and light-hearted tuneful enactment. [more]

Midnight at The Never Get

October 12, 2018

Mark Sonnenblick’s exceptional book is an accomplished mixture of prodigious research, well-drawn characters and adept if misguided construction. It skillfully dramatizes the gay experience of living in New York City in the 1960’s with all its glory and despair. The Checkerboard, Julius, The Village Vanguard, The Blue Angel, The Bon Soir and Cafe Wha? are among the legendary venues mentioned. The Stonewall Riots, organized crime’s control of gay bars and routine arrests of gay men are cited. [more]

Girl From the North Country

October 12, 2018

Set in a dark time, "Girl From the North Country" creates a community on stage as do the best plays and musicals. Its tale of lost souls attempting to keep their heads above water is universal in both its message and its approach. Conor McPherson has never written so accessible a play before for Americans, and Bob Dylan’s songs have never sounded so poignant. "Girl From the North Country" is both unforgettable and not to be missed. [more]

The Evolution of Mann

October 10, 2018

Henry’s roommate and confidante, Gwen (a solid, appealing Leslie Hiatt) has her own heartache to deal with:  Her wife, Diana, has left her, accusing Gwen of infidelity.  Gwen and Henry support each other with wisecracks, gentle prodding and pleasant songs provided by Douglas J. Cohen (music and lyrics) and Dan Elish (book and lyrics, based on Elish’s novel, "Nine Wives"). [more]

The Eleventh Hour!

October 1, 2018

Nevin Denham is a morose N.J. basement band guitarist whose estranged up and coming astrophysicist girlfriend Amy Leonardo moves to New York City to be an intern for Mr. Tyson at the Hayden Planetarium. After the news of the impending disaster is broadcast on television they realize they still have strong feelings for each other and they set out on odysseys to reconnect. Along the way there are apocalyptic vignettes with homeless marauders, moles and a snake. [more]

Pop Punk High

September 28, 2018

Anderson Cook’s jocular book is a silly amalgam of "Grease" and "Rock 'n' Roll High School" with shades of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Composer and lyricist Ben Lapidus’ Green Day-themed score is an appealingly thrashing affair with numbers such as “I Don’t Give a Fuck.” With rock star animation, Mr. Lapidus also portrays Derek conveying teenage angst for comic effect. [more]

Me the People: Fire and Fury Edition

September 16, 2018

You’d need a ten ton truck to haul away all the slings and arrows slung and shot at Donald Trump in "Me the People: Fire & Fury Edition," the red-hot political revue currently on stage at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. Written by the sharp-witted Nancy Holson whose hilarious lyrics repurpose many well-known songs for her nefarious criticisms of our misbegotten president, the show is an update of an earlier version. [more]

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin

September 9, 2018

Using a format that has worked for him before in his George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein evenings, Hershey Felder has returned to 59E59 Theaters in a charming biographical musical as legendary songwriter Irving Berlin. As Felder narrates his story becoming Berlin, he also sings and plays over 30 of his most famous songs, as well as some not so familiar today, including “Blue Skies,” “White Christmas” and the iconic, “God Bless America’. [more]

The Gospel at Colonus

September 8, 2018

The complexities of this Greek tragedy are shoe-horned into a Gospel service with songs ranging from the thoughtful (“The Invocation”) to the formal (“Creon Comes to Colonus”) to the awe-inspiring (“The Descent of Oedipus”) and finally to the heartbreaking (“The Sermon” and “Closing Hymn”), all variations on the well-known Gospel/Blues/Christian Hymn musical repertory. [more]

Smokey’s Joe’s Café: The Songs of Leiber & Stoller

August 31, 2018

Although "Smokey Joe’s Café" has been seen in New York before, the new production now at Stage 42 is an entirely different incarnation of the show that still holds the record for Broadway musical revues having racked up 2,036 performances. The new version which again uses nine talented and dynamic singers and dancers, five men and four women, has deleted five songs and added five, rearranged the song list for a new total of 40, and eliminated the intermission. It is now a more streamlined version of the 1995 show. [more]

1969: The Second Man

August 30, 2018

The mellow sound of Brandt’s score proves to be easy listening, but the individual musical numbers do not build to any dramatic climaxes so that the show seems tamer than material concerning depression and alcoholism suggests it should be. However, the ballad forms and guitar/violin instrumentation are pleasant to the ear. Some of Giles’ dialogue which is not part of Aldrin’s story seems extraneous and the show takes a while to get started. "1969: The Second Man" is entertaining enough in this concert form, but needs some work before going to the next level. Jacob Brandt, however, proves to be a talented new musical voice. [more]

Be More Chill

August 27, 2018

"Be More Chill" is an impressive musical version of Ned Vizzini’s cult novel. Not only does it reproduce the plot on stage, it also gives it a high tech look that dramatizes the story where the novel left it to the imagination. Joe Iconis, long thought to be one of the most promising new theater composers, makes good on that promise, and Joe Tracz demonstrates for a second time that he can put difficult material on the stage. While Ryan Rumery’s overly loud sound design will turn off older theatergoers who are not more chill, those in the swing of things will have a memorable evening in the musical theater. [more]
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