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Musicals

Girl from the North Country (Broadway)

March 19, 2020

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]

West Side Story

March 16, 2020

Van Hove's energetic cast is too often lost among the video images which is sad because they are a wonderfully scrappy group of actor/dancer/singers who give their all.  (I’m told that this is less of an issue in the higher reaches of the theatre due to the difference in perspective.)  To be sure, there are wonderful moments where the groups move about in cityscapes that constantly change around them, but these are countered by long scenes during which the actors appear to be lilliputian figures whose singing and emoting get lost in the confusion of giant faces. [more]

The Unsinkable Molly Brown

March 15, 2020

Although director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall has given the Transport Group production staged at The Abroms Arts Center a rousing production, the major problem still exists with the story: Molly goes from tomboy to wife to social activist but always seems to be the same. Basically Malone changes her outfits (costumes by Sky Switser) and becomes more mature and more sophisticated but never really changes from the girl at heart who wants riches and gaudy things. Costar David Aron Damane, with his powerful baritone, who plays J.J. Brown, the miner who strikes it rich and proceeds to give Molly almost everything she wants, helps a good deal but their love story is not made entirely believable, possibly because the stalwart Damane is still made to be a very retiring hero, a man of few words. [more]

Unknown Soldier

March 11, 2020

The declarative lyrics are written by Mr. Goldstein and the show’s composer Michael Friedman. Mr. Friedman was a notable musical theater figure who died of HIV-related causes in 2017, at the age of 41. With its derivative melodies echoing Stephen Sondheim, John Kander and William Finn, "Unknown Soldier" is not a posthumous masterpiece. [more]

Tumacho

March 5, 2020

To review dramatist/lyricist/composer Ethan Lipton's "Tumacho" almost feels like missing the point of this endearingly oddball "play with songs," a comic pastiche of Western and horror tropes that is essentially the theatrical equivalent of an old Hollywood B-movie. Its major goal is to shamelessly please the audience, something it largely achieves through top-notch performances and an abiding strangeness, if not necessarily a consistent quality of jokes or characterizations or plotting. Obviously, all of the latter should matter, but the fact that it doesn't only attests to the show's bizarre charm. [more]

No Strings

March 3, 2020

Following its opening production of Cy Coleman’s equally rarely seen "Seesaw," J2 Spotlight Musical Theater Company is presenting a fully staged version of "No Strings" as the second production of its inaugural season. While No Strings, set in the Paris world of high fashion and the French watering holes of the very rich, would need a much more lavish staging to do it justice, Deidre Goodwin’s production does have its charms though the show’s book by playwright Samuel Taylor seems particularly thin by today's standards. The songs are melodic and hummable though there is no breakout winner among the 14 musical numbers. [more]

Mack & Mabel

February 23, 2020

The latest offering in New York City Center Encores! concert series was the Jerry Herman musical, "Mack & Mabel." Originally on Broadway during the 1974 season, it received disappointing reviews and had a mere 66 performances before it closed after nine weeks. This production also has its problems, but it was enormously entertaining and worth seeing, mostly because of the Herman score and the delicious musical numbers. Herman has written the music for some of Broadway’s most iconic shows, like "Hello, Dolly!," "Mame" and "La Cage Aux Folles." Because of his recent death this past December, the show was a tribute to him, with huge, framed photos of him displayed during the entr’acte. [more]

Seesaw

February 18, 2020

Although J2 Spotlight’s artistic director Robert W. Schneider who staged this show has given it a vigorous production and cast a delightful Gittel in Stephanie Israelson, he is unable to disguise the show’s flaws. He is not helped by the trite, derivative choreography by Caitlin Belcik for a show that is mainly dance and has eight dancers out of a cast of nine. The many production numbers are both busy and familiar, and keep the ensemble composed of Kyle Caress, Chaz Alexander Coffin, Katie Griffith, Caleb Grochalski, Morgan Hecker and Halle Mastroberardino spinning throughout the show. [more]

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

February 11, 2020

Bookwriter Jonathan Marc Sherman has wisely kept the story in its period. However, his dialogue is almost word for word lifted from the screenplay which is rather old hat for those of us have heard it in the movie. The score with music by Sheik and lyrics by Sheik and Amanda Green makes all the songs sound the same in Sheik’s orchestration played by a combo of four. The lyrics are both pedestrian and trite, telling us only what we already know. The songs which are not listed in the program include a great many reprises. Many of the tableaux and setups recreate exact visual moments from the film. [more]

Emojiland: The Musical

January 29, 2020

Smiling Faces, Skull, Princess, Pile of Poo and other notable emojis cavorting around might have made for a peppy contained sophisticated children’s show. The creators of "Emojiland: The Musical" however, have opted for a full-length treatment that sputters out by intermission as not much has happened and then we come back for more anemic hijinks. The meager plot involves a software update, a firewall, a virus, betrayals and some romantic complications all taking place in a smartphone fantasyland. [more]

Romeo & Bernadette: A Musical Tale of Verona & Brooklyn

January 27, 2020

"Romeo & Bernadette," a fresh take on Shakespeare’s oft-adapted tale of love, is an unabashed valentine to inter-era romance.  Shakespeare’s Romeo (cutie-pie Nikita Burshteyn, perfectly cast) is magically time-travelled to 1960’s Brooklyn to seek Bernadette (beautiful Anna Kostakis who plays both the foul-mouthed Bernadette and the demure Juliet), a striking doppelganger of his beloved sixteenth century Juliet.  There he meets members of two rival Italian mobs who substitute, 1960-style, for the Capulets and Montagues. [more]

Sing Street

December 27, 2019

By stripping the story of local color—even the projections show little but an anonymous seascape—the creative team does ill by "Sing Street. " Take away the Irish accents, the 1980’s songs and a quick reference to The Famine, and this story of alienated teens could have taken place in Boise, Idaho, or Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Let’s face it, the let’s-put-together-a-band-to-solve-our-problems was even a common theme in MGM films of the forties! (The original "Sing Street" movie, of course, was filmed in Dublin and was filled to the brim with local color and the grimness of economic distress.) [more]

Pockets

December 18, 2019

Frothiness abounds in "Pockets," an amusing spoof of British musicals that’s presented by the Los Angeles-based comedy troupe Robot Teammate.  The rollicking score is a collaboration between the group’s members and lead composer and music director Branson NeJame. The saucy book is a communal effort as well, created with head writer Dave Reynolds. It’s all 70-minutes of good-natured silliness structured as sketch comedy-style scenes and accomplished musical numbers. There are plentiful puns, sight gags and zaniness. [more]

Jagged Little Pill

December 15, 2019

Given the personal nature of Morissette's artistic output, it might be surprising to learn that the Broadway version of Jagged Little Pill doesn't take the easy biographical route for its book, mimicking, say, the mega-popular "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical," whose subtitle pretty much says it all. Instead, Morissette's album (Glen Ballard co-wrote the music) and a few of her other songs support an entirely original story from theater-novice Diablo Cody, whose Oscar-winning screenplay for "Juno" was funny, affecting, and decidedly superficial. This same descriptive mixed bag also holds true for Jagged Little Pill, which rises above typical jukebox musical fare, but not as much as it could have, largely because Cody is interested in hot-button issues, not characters. [more]

ray gun say0nara

December 11, 2019

Fabulous technical elements and spirited performances from a large ensemble of actors, singers and dancers cannot overcome the authorial negligence of the musical science fiction pastiche, "ray gun say0nara." It runs over two hours plus an intermission and has some engaging sequences but makes little cumulative impact. [more]

Anything Can Happen in the Theater: The Musical World of Maury Yeston

December 11, 2019

The York Theatre Company’s new revue, "Anything Can Happen in the Theater: The Musical World of Maury Yeston," reminds us not to take for granted the talents of this vibrant composer/lyricist, best known for such Broadway titles as "Nine" (1982), "Grand Hotel" (1989) and "Titanic" (1997). This one-act show, featuring five abundantly gifted singer-dancers, underscores the wide-ranging nature of the composer’s music. Yeston has successfully adopted diverse musical sounds, from 1920's pop to mid-twentieth-century rock to folky-country contemporary. Mostly though, he’s known for lush, sweeping, timeless melodies that seem at times to bypass listeners’ ears and aim straight for the heart. His lyrics are smart, but not overly clever. [more]

The Sorceress (Di Kishefmakherin)

December 9, 2019

Goldfaden’s escapist musical fantasy combines bits and pieces from many sources: the Cinderella fairy tale; Gilbert-and-Sullivan-esque rapid-fire, tongue twister songs; old-fashioned (even in 1878!) melodrama; Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio; and—believe it or not—the Seventies’  TV sitcom, “Laverne and Shirley”! (The L & S reference, to be absolutely honest, might be an interjection improvised by the actor—yes actor—playing the title role.) [more]

Cyrano

December 2, 2019

For those younger members of the audience who do not know Edmond Rostand’s classic French play, "Cyrano de Bergerac," the new musical "Cyrano" presented by The New Group at the Darryl Roth Theatre may be entertaining enough. However, for those of us who know the original, the compromises and excisions from the text make it a shadow of its former itself. Don’t blame film and television star Peter Dinklage who gives a vigorous performance in the title role. However, he is hampered by the adaptation by director Erica Schmidt who happens to be his wife. [more]

Love Actually? The Unauthorized Musical Parody

December 2, 2019

Now, New Yorkers who know the film (and who love it, hate it or partly love it and partly hate it) have a chance to see a streamlined (at 95 minutes) musical-theatrical spoof of the film, called "Love Actually? The Unauthorized Musical Parody." It’s a lively, silly and well-performed romp created by people who seem to have done a lot of this sort of thing: writers Bob and Tobly McSmith ("The Office! A Musical Parody") and director Tim Drucker ("Spidermusical"). The three previously worked together on "Friends! The Musical Parody." Basil Winterbottom has provided the engaging tunes and orchestrations for the McSmiths’ lyrics. [more]

The Giant Hoax

November 30, 2019

"The Giant Hoax" is a charming morality tale about telling the truth and growing up. The expert hands of director Christopher Michaels and choreographer Molly Model are clearly at work in all aspects of this production, bringing a touching story with affable songs and clever lyrics to life with a cast of first rate actors, a fine ensemble, and inventive and humorous choreography. This show will never get any bigger than it is, but it’s big enough to fill the hearts of its audience to bursting, as long as actors of this production’s caliber are playing it. [more]

Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

November 24, 2019

Do we really need another Jukebox Musical on Broadway—another hum-along, sing-along, déjà vu, vaguely autobiographical songfest? When the subject is as charged up as Tina Turner, the answer is yes—a conditional yes, but….yes, especially when the title character is embodied by the sensational Adrienne Warren who gained accolades for her rendition of Tina in the original London production and is one of the main reasons Tina gained the momentum to make the jump to Broadway. [more]

Einstein’s Dreams

November 22, 2019

Alan Lightman’s 1992 internationally best-selling novel "Einstein’s Dreams" would seem like an unlikely choice for stage adaptation as the original book is made up of 30 variations on theories of time but includes no plot. However, as adapted by Joanne Sydney Lessner (book and lyrics) and Joshua Rosenblum (music and lyrics) it is a charming period musical that makes Einstein’s theories (at least the ten dramatized) quite accessible to audiences not made up of physicists. Its lovely score and excellent production directed by Prospect Theater Company’s Cara Reichel led by Zal Owen and Alexandra Silber are both entertaining and mind-expanding. Its deficiencies are ones that were also true of the novel. [more]

Truffles: Music! Mushrooms! Murder!!!

November 19, 2019

"Truffles: Music! Mushrooms! Murder!!!" is a dinner theater musical mystery set in the very restaurant (The Secret Room) where the audience is having dinner. This return engagement of the long-running show originally conceived by Sonia Carrion has been extensively rewritten by Gregg Ostrin inspired by characters initially created by Billy Manton, Carrion and Hal Galardi. This mildly amusing evening includes dinner (if you so choose), a score with 11 clever songs, and a murder mystery which keeps morphing into various other genres. [more]

Hooked on Happiness

November 19, 2019

Although the show is 80 minutes without an intermission, it just breezes right by and one is never bored. The music, played by Peter Dizozza (on piano), Ralph Hamperian (on bass) and Art Lilliard (on drums), keeps the show moving at perfect tempo. From ballads to disco tune, from rap to group numbers, the music is spot on. Sound designer Alex Santullo delivers a pitch-perfect musical. [more]

Evita

November 18, 2019

Solea Pfeiffer in a scene from New York City Center’s revival of “Evita” (Photo credit: Joan [more]

Broadbend, Arkansas

November 15, 2019

Produced by Transport Group in association with The Public Theater and directed with precision, clarity and simplicity by Transport Group’s artistic director Jack Cummings III, this story of three generations of an African American family grappling with of racism, violence and inequality in the South is as moving and trenchant as a story by Harper Lee. Each act is a monodrama exquisitely acted, sung and directed for a very discerning audience. While there is dialogue in both halves, the extraordinary music makes it feel sung through. [more]

Scotland, PA

November 10, 2019

There have been many adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth but none of them probably as entertaining as the new musical "Scotland, PA." Presented in the cartoon style of "Little Shop of Horrors," the show does not break any new ground but proves to be a fun evening. However, director Lonny Price who has staged musicals both big ("Sunset Boulevard)" and small ("Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill") gives the interest high and the show bubbling. [more]

Little Shop of Horrors

November 5, 2019

In a counterintuitive casting coup, handsome Jonathan Groff stars as the nebbish Seymour Krelborn who works at Mushnik’s (a funny, kvetchy Tom Alan Robbins) failing flower shop on Skid Row.  Seymour discovers an odd potted plant in Chinatown after an eclipse, a plant that leads to great success for both Mushnik and Seymour. Although it is difficult to forget Groff’s physical attributes (well-hidden under Tom Broecker’s costumes), he delivers a brilliantly realized sad sack Seymour. Poor Seymour is in love with the much put upon Audrey played with ditzy perfection by Tammy Blanchard.  Two-time Tony Award winner Christian Borle chews the scenery as Audrey’s sadistic dentist boyfriend, Orin Scrivello plus several other characters such as a William Morris agent and an NBC TV executive. [more]

An Enchanted April

November 4, 2019

The enduring resonance of its source material is evident in "An Enchanted April" during this uneven stage musical adaptation. Lasting two hours and 45 minutes with an intermission, its initial frothiness gradually fizzles. The bright score is excessive, the solid book rambles, and the production is more dutiful than inspired. However, the performances are engaging, and the piece’s emotional power is palpable. The show was originally presented by the Utah Lyric Opera and this New York City premiere demonstrates its potential. [more]

The Lightning Thief – The Percy Jackson Musical on Broadway

November 2, 2019

"The Lightning Thief - The Percy Jackson Musical" settles down a bit more in the second act and becomes more engrossing but the damage has been done. The actors in the first act all seem to be racing for a train and the sound levels continue to damage many of the songs throughout the show. The show remains an excellent introduction to Greek mythology made relevant for our own time. Faithful to the source material, it may please both teens who have read the book and those who have not. The five of the seven-member cast playing 28 roles demonstrates their versatility as they change from one colorful three-dimensional character to another. If only the director and the production had trusted the original show and did not feel it necessary to make it bigger and better for Broadway, a common complaint when shows make the move from their smaller Off Broadway venues. [more]

Soft Power

October 29, 2019

Hillary Clinton wearing a glittery red pantsuit leading a Gene Kelly/Stanley Donen-style production number set in a Busby Berkeleyesque recreation of a McDonald’s with giant sparkling French fries is a highlight of the insipid and disjointed musical fantasia, "Soft Power." It’s just one of its many lame sequences including a "The Music Man"-type explanation of the U.S. electoral system led by a singing and dancing judge. We’re in for two hours of painfully unfunny self-indulgence. Holden Caulfield from "The Catcher in the Rye" pops up too. [more]

Panama Hattie

October 29, 2019

While the original production had a great many one-of-a-kind stars supporting Merman, one of the distinctions of the York production is its cast: Montel has been able to obtain the services of Klea Blackhurst for Hattie Maloney, the Ethel Merman role. Blackhurst, you may know, has specialized in Merman for years including her tribute show "Everything  the Traffic Will Allow" as well as appearing in the Merman roles in revivals of "Anything Goes," "Red, Hot and Blue," "Call Me Madam" and The York’s staging of "Happy Hunting." Montel has also surrounded her with seasoned theater veterans including Stephen Bogardus, Simon Jones, Gordon Stanley and David Green. The members of the singing and dancing chorus are equally talented. [more]
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