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Musicals

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]

The Decline and Fall of the Entire World As Seen Through the Eyes of Cole Porter

October 18, 2019

As part of its Fall 2019 Musicals in Mufti Cole Porter Series, The York Theatre Company has smartly revived this 1965 Ben Bagley - Cole Porter revue not seen in New York in 54 years. Pamela Hunt’s delightfully sophisticated production uses four talented performers at the height of their powers: Danny Gardner, Lauren Molina, Diane Phelan and Tony Award nominee Lee Roy Reams, with the estimable Eric Svejcar at the piano. Hunt has tweaked the show a bit eliminating five of the songs which have inappropriate lyrics for modern sensibility and handed Reams the role of speaking Bagley’s droll narration rather than dividing it up between the original five performers. Although the Muftis are performed concert style with book in hand, these performers appear to be letter perfect and hardly look at their sheet music. [more]

Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation

October 17, 2019

This is the latest edition of creator, writer and director Gerard Alessandrini’s enduring musical spoof skewering present and past NYC theater that he inaugurated- in 1982 and has had over 20 incarnations. Mr. Alessandrini’s erudite, affectionate and acerbic script once again lambasts Broadway while lovingly celebrating its history during its 20 numbers. “Theater isn’t art, unless it hurts.” It’s that aching sense of the collectively treasured memorable greatness of Broadway clashing with its mercenary concerns that enables each version of the show to resonate while entertaining. Plus, it’s very funny and offers a showcase for talented malleable performers. [more]

The Wrong Man

October 10, 2019

"The Wrong Man" is a new musical by multi-platinum songwriter Ross Golan with "Hamilton"’s director Thomas Kail. Like "Hamilton," it began as a concept album and grew into a stage performance. Unlike Hamilton‘s epic sweep of history, this subject is contemporary and has a narrower focus, following the fortunes of one man, Duran, who is down on his luck in Reno, Nevada. The intimate setting of The Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space’s Newman Mills Theater is a good place to show off the production. [more]

Fifty Million Frenchmen

October 3, 2019

Still delightful, mainly due to Porter’s score, the book by Herbert Fields (who went on to write six more Porter shows) has its charms with its snappy Jazz Age dialogue which makes fun of the ugly Americans in Paris, loaded with money but making one faux pas after another while mangling the French language. The version being used by the York Theatre production is that of the 1991 Tommy Krasker/Evans Haile adaptation for the Cole Porter Centennial first performed at the French Institute/Alliance Française which reduces the cast from 100 to a manageable eleven. It also reallocates some of the songs and includes some of the songs cut both on the road and after the opening. [more]

The Green Room

October 3, 2019

These four characters are, unfortunately, not interesting enough to fill a 90-minute musical, especially one that covers territory better served by other shows like "A Chorus Line," "Fame" and "Merrily We Roll Along," all superior to the earnest, but predictable "Green Room." Even the crisis that drives the play—will Anna wear a revealing costume in Cliff’s play?—is laughable nowadays when nudity is common.  Cliff’s play is backed by his—and Anna’s—Dad with the proviso that all four pass their courses. They all depend upon each other to study, but leave everything to the last minute.  Even when it’s likely that they will pass, Anna’s refusal to wear a skimpy costume, one it turns out that even a high school participant in the Jimmy Awards would find modest, is a red herring that is soon resolved. [more]

Felix Starro

September 4, 2019

The score with Ms. Hagedorn’s sharp lyrics and composer Fabian Obispo’s pointed melodies in the manner of Stephen Sondheim and John Kander is quite accomplished with its rousing group numbers and rich solos. Highlights include an eerie sequence with one sick person after another seeking rejuvenation, a Billy Flynn "Chicago"-style bit documenting Felix’s past popularity and an acidic anthem by a mercenary San Francisco female florist who deals in black market identity papers for illegal immigrants. [more]

Contact High: A New Musical

August 23, 2019

Hass directed and his stilted staging is adequate. Simple entrances and exits, cast members going through the theater’s aisle and basic character interactions occur. Some performances are excessively broad diluting the narrative’s impact. Playing a major part in a show as well as directing it is problematic. Hass’ joint choreography with Dana Norris is an uninspired series of rudimentary movement, jumping up and down, moving wheelie chairs around and clunky robotic flourishes. Hallowed masterpieces of musical theater are often alchemical artistic collaborations among a creative team. Without experienced objective directorial oversight, "Contact High" is lumpy. [more]

Waiting for Johnny Depp

August 22, 2019

What’s best about "Waiting for Johnny Depp" is Vivino’s performance. My, does she ever get a workout during the play’s 100-minute running time. She has 15 or so musical numbers (some of them reprises), ranging from dizzyingly ecstatic to utterly despondent. She belts, rocks out, sings pretty during the ballads. She carries nearly all of the spoken word, too, though sometimes she has exchanges with the recorded voice of Rita’s highly disagreeable mother. The ghastly ringtone whenever Mom (or that agent with his caveats) calls is like a bugle blast at the gates of hell. (Sound designer Tom Valdez gets a bit of a workout too.) Vivino bounces around the stage, executes choreographer Juson Williams’ dance steps, goes offstage for quick costume and wig changes, and interacts with both the audience and musical director/pianist Logan Medland. [more]

Bat Out of Hell-The Musical

August 9, 2019

The score is derived from the catalog of songwriter Jim Steinman’s "Bat Out of Hell" album trilogy whose songs were immortalized by Meat Loaf. Mr. Steinman’s  accomplishments as a composer and lyricist are monumental. As a librettist he is dreadful. His negligible scenario borrows heavily from "Peter Pan" (a doomed character is actually named Tink), the hoary stilted dialogue is reminiscent of Flash Gordon cliffhangers and it’s all often ill-matched with his iconic songs. Much of it is supposed to be funny.  It all makes "Bat Out of Hell-The Musical" a numbing dysfunctional slog. Very often, on-stage actions are projected on to a very large screen opposite them with characters followed around by videographers dressed in black. We get to watch schlock twice simultaneously. [more]

Broadway Bounty Hunter

August 7, 2019

Composer-lyricist Joe Inconis’ follow up to his teen favorite, "Be More Chill," is not only a showcase for musical comedy actress Annie Golden but a tribute to the Blaxploitation and Martial Arts movies of the 1970’s and 1980’s. While "Broadway Bounty Hunter" is very entertaining, it might have been a better show if had not been so anxious to not be a parody or a satire. Written by Iconis and longtime collaborators Lance Rubin and Jason Sweettooth Williams, energetic cast, fully attuned with their concept has been directed and choreographed with fierce energy by Jennifer Werner who has previous created the dances for five of Iconis’ last six shows. [more]

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

August 3, 2019

As the romantic, tubercular and charismatic Satine, the magnetic Ms. Olivo delivers a ferocious, sensual and grandiose performance that’s one of the most memorable recently seen on Broadway. Her sensational characterization is more Eartha Kitt than Nicole Kidman and all her own. Clad in slinky costumes, the voluptuous Olivo perpetually dazzles. Her titanic singing and dancing is matched by her intense acting which grounds the busy production with riveting focus. Her “Diamonds are Forever” is spellbinding and there’s saucy humor when it’s followed by “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” “Material Girl” and “Single Ladies.” [more]

Two’s a Crowd

August 2, 2019

Co-written by and starring Rita Rudner (who is not only a playwright and performer but also an author, film writer, producer and director, with many TV appearances to her credit), "Two’s a Crowd" suggests that it’s creator has run out of original ideas and is recycling old ones--not only others, but her own. It really lands with a thud, which also may have a lot to do with trying to present it as a musical. [more]

Rock of Ages

July 31, 2019

"Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard in a smashing live rendition accompanies a lusty production number at a seedy Los Angeles strip club with scantily clad pole dancers and creepy patrons. It’s a splashy set piece in this uproarious Off-Broadway revival commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Broadway hit "Rock of Ages. " It’s also notable because previously Def Leppard wouldn’t allow their songs to be included in this 1980’s hit singles jukebox musical. “Rock of Ages” in a recorded version is heard after the show ends and the audience leaves. [more]

I Spy A Spy

July 21, 2019

Cluttered, lively and quaint, the zany musical comedy "I Spy A Spy" is reminiscent of the sort of lightweight material directorial legend George Abbott would have had a go at in the late 1960’s. This show recalls the Abbott efforts "How Now, Dow Jones" and "The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N" that William Goldman analyzed in his classic 1969 behind the scenes account "The Season." Abbott did his best with those disappointments just as the creative team for I Spy A Spy does. [more]

Dog Man: The Musical

July 9, 2019

Kids may love this show—and the Dog Man books themselves—largely because the outlandish situations are similar to scenarios in their own hyper-imaginative make-believe play. Except that, at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, young audiences see a fully realized version of such fantasies, with vibrant production values plus some catchy tunes. Tim Mackabee’s cartoonish unit set—Harold and George’s treehouse—is quiet at first but is soon swarming with marauding buildings, a wacky robot and other assorted craziness. Heidi Leigh Hanson’s costumes are bright and cleverly imagined. David Lander’s lighting design helps us imagine lightning storms, bomb explosions and what amounts to a municipal volcano. Director/choreographer Jen Wineman keeps everything moving along at a quick clip. [more]

Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise

July 3, 2019

Sometimes you don’t need a long, complex story — or even an engaging one — to hook an audience. At the showing of "Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise" at The Shed that I attended, audiences clapped and hooted for heroes and villains alike, despite being given no logical reason to do so. The heroes and villains possessed no distinguishing character traits, other than differing accents, and they voiced no discernible reasons to be fighting. The fighting was just that awesome.The visual bombast and fight choreography of "Dragon Spring," a world premiere Shed commission, are thrilling enough to recommend the show as an expensive diversion, at the very least. There are moments when the show’s production elements come together so spectacularly that they almost lift the rest of the show with them. Almost. [more]

The Secret Life of Bees

June 27, 2019

Nottage’s book is faithful to the novel while at the same time reducing some of the melodrama and streamlining the story to reduce the number of characters to a cast of 13. Sheik’s score may be his most lush and melodic and the use of guitar and cello gives the music an appropriate folk feeling. The songs are a mix of gospel, R&B and pop which gives each of the main characters a song that explains their deepest thoughts. The rousing gospel numbers, “River of Melting Sun,” “Tek a Hol a My Soul” “Hold This House Together, “Our Lady of Chains,” make use of a great many beautiful voices in unison. [more]

Camp Morning Wood: A Very Naked Musical

June 19, 2019

Living up to its title, a racially and physically diverse game company of ten male performers really are nude throughout "Camp Morning Wood: A Very Naked Musical." It succeeds as a joyous flesh parade but disappoints as an actual theater piece. What might have been an engaging encounter group-style exploration depicting facets of the gay male experience is instead labored with a flatly comical cornball plot that’s dragged out to two hours with an intermission. [more]
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