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Musicals

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]

Pretty Woman: The Musical

August 26, 2018

With Tony nominations for "Rocky," "On the Twentieth Century" and "Groundhog Day," 44-year-old Andy Karl’s charisma and considerable talents have been well demonstrated. In "Pretty Woman: The Musical" as the aloof Edward, Mr. Karl exhibits what magnetism he can in this detached role while being saddled with some dreary songs. Karl and Ms. Banks admirably soldier on together in a losing battle. [more]

Heist!

August 23, 2018

What’s missing from the nondescript music is originality, soul or spirit, and the same can be said about the book. Under the guidance of director James Will McBride, the cast, however, features some strong performances. In addition to Bober, Irion, and Sabulis, these include especially the red-haired Claire Leyden as Cynthia--with a strong, soprano, operatic voice-- and alto Blair Medina as Patricia, who plays the “Femme Fatale” in Three Card Monte. [more]

Neurosis

August 23, 2018

The clever invention is that each of them has a best friend who only they can see and hear: Neurosis (Brennan Caldwell) is Frank’s best buddy, a more cautious, nervous version of Frank, and Neurosalina (Morgan Weed) is Abby’s neurosis, a mean girl who Abby can’t get out of her head. Both of them need help but are not getting it from their neuroses who are always giving them bad advice and are stopping them from moving on. The show is bookended by musical advice from Samantha (Lacretta), a therapist, who takes on the task of freeing Frank from his problems: his overbearing Jewish mother Geri (Susan J. Jacks), his “underbearing” father Kenny (Joel Blum), his low self-esteem, and his lack of poise around women. [more]

R.R.R.E.D.

August 20, 2018

Spirited, tuneful and fabulously performed but lacking a strong plot, the silly "R.R.R.E.D." might have made for a lively hour-long cabaret show. However, as a full-length musical, it’s a tiresome experience. The exuberant Hee Haw-style opening number has the two principal performers disguised as hillbillies in a garden. [more]

Gettin’ the Band Back Together

August 20, 2018

If the show plays like it was written by a committee, in fact, it has been. The book is by producer/ writer Ken Davenport and The Grundleshotz who turn out to be a group of performers and writers who originally workshopped the show in a series of improvised rehearsals. For the record, they are Sebastian Arcelus, Fred Berman, Michael Hirstreet, Jenna Coker Jones, Craig Jorczak, Nathan Kaufman, Emily McNamara, Jennifer Miller, Bhavesh Patel, Sarah Saltzberg (who is credited with additional material), Michael Tester, as well as Jay Kaitz who plays the second male lead in the show, Bart Vickers as though he were auditioning for Dewey, the laid-back music teacher in "School of Rock." [more]

Twelfth Night 2018 (Free Shakespeare in the Park & Public Works)

August 10, 2018

Shaina Taub’s joyful and sunny updated musical version of Shakespeare’s comedy, "Twelfth Night," is back in a full production courtesy of Free Shakespeare in the Park and Public Works which premiered an earlier production for four performances during Labor Day Weekend 2016. This slightly trimmed and tightened version is even more entertaining and the witty contemporary lyrics make this fun for young and old, as well as Shakespeare veterans and novices. [more]

Head Over Heels

August 9, 2018

Under Michael Mayer’s fast-paced direction, "Head Over Heels" starts badly and busily but eventually slows down to a delightful Elizabethan parody on love and gender. While not all of The Go-Go’s songs are suitable for the storyline and the period, enough of them fit perfectly to make this a superior light entertainment. The cast is first rate and may make stars of the ingenious Andrew Durand and the classy and stylish Peppermint. Aside from introducing The Go-Go’s song catalog to Broadway, "Head Over Heels" covers a great many firsts of all kinds. [more]

This Ain’t No Disco

August 7, 2018

"This Ain’t No Disco" is a compressed, zany look at the years in the 1970s that Studio 54 ruled the social whirl of New York City, complete with debauchery, drugs, loud music, semi-nudity and dancing (brilliantly evocative choreography by Camille A. Brown—herself no slouch with "Once on This Island" under her belt.) The libretto hews closely to the facts about the rise and fall of this mecca of A-list celebrities, including real people—Steve Rubell, Andy Warhol (here called The Artist)—and a host of fictional characters who represent a cross-section of the clientele, from pretty boy bartenders/drug dealers to undercover government agents looking for a chink in Rubell’s armor.  The Mudd Club also makes a guest appearance as well as the homes of several of the characters whose mixing and matching drive the play. [more]

Comfort Women: A New Musical

July 30, 2018

In telling the rest of this shattering story, the creators of Comfort Women, inexplicably, rely heavily on musical theater conventions that result in wrongheaded, if not downright offensive, choices. The most cringeworthy is the choreographed sequence of a Korean woman being gang raped by Japanese soldiers. At some point, in their effort to visualize this atrocity, director Dimo Hyun Jun Kim and choreographer Natanal Hyun Kim should have realized that they were, in fact, trivializing it. [more]

Fiddler on the Roof (The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene)

July 28, 2018

Steven Skybell’s Tevye warms up from a salt-of-the-earth, everyday philosopher to the much put-upon tragic existential hero upon whom God—to whom he speaks frequently—has heaped much tsouris.  By the time he has lost a third daughter Khavele, this time to a Russian Christian, his interpretations of the songs and his line readings are heart-breaking. [more]

Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope

July 28, 2018

This plotless, mostly sung-through exhibition conveys the tumultuous 20th century urban African-American experience through Micki Grant’s dazzling score for which she wrote both the music and lyrics. “Universe in Mourning,” “Harlem Streets,” “Ghetto Life” and “Billie Holiday Blues” are some of the titles. [more]

Pedro Pan

July 17, 2018

Rebecca Aparicio’s book is a skillful fictionalization of the true story of Operation Pedro Pan, which facilitated the immigration of over 14,000 children from Cuba to the United States between December 1960 and October 1962. Ms. Aparicio successfully dramatizes the harsh era of the Castro regime, the promise of freedom in the U.S. and the realities of racism, all through a child’s perspective. The incidents are illustrative, historical facts are imparted, and the dialogue is engagingly simple yet effective. [more]

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever

July 9, 2018

Charlotte Moore’s version streamlines the plot somewhat from Lerner’s original by eliminating Daisy’s fiancé for whom she wants to quit smoking as well as a subplot with Greek shipping magnate Themistocles Kriakos who wishes to fund a study to prove that reincarnation is real. Mark’s brother Dr. Paul Bruckner becomes his colleague Dr Conrad Fuller in this latest version, and the clinic is no longer a family business. The songs, “Tosy and Cosh” and “Don’t Tamper with My Sister,” have been cut, shortening the 18th century story, and two songs added from the National Tour subsequent to the original Broadway run: “Solicitor’s Song” and Daisy’s “He Wasn’t You,” a female version of Edward’s later “She Wasn’t You.” Finally, “Who Is There Among Us Who Knows” (written for the film version but left on the cutting room floor) opens the second act instead of Kriakos’ “When I’m Being Born Again.” [more]

Songs for a New World

July 2, 2018

The unison of Jason Robert Brown’s accomplished score, Kate Whoriskey’s exciting direction and Rennie Harris’s vibrant choreography make this New York City Center Encores! Off-Center’s revival of his 1995 debut show "Songs for a New World," a dynamic theatrical experience. Mr. Brown’s surprise appearance at the piano to play a song in the second act was electrifying. [more]

Carmen Jones

July 1, 2018

Unlike the musicals "Rent" (an update on Puccini’s "La Boheme"), and "Miss Saigon' (inspired by Puccini’s "Madame Butterfly") both of which had all new music by other composers for their contemporary stories, "Carmen Jones" uses the original Bizet score. However, it is not simply an English translation. Hammerstein has written all new lyrics to place the story in a W.W. II Southern community (possibly North Carolina) and with the characters ending up in Chicago for the denouement. While "Carmen Jones" was a smash hit originally running for 503 performances at the Broadway Theatre during the war years, some like then critic James Baldwin found the dialect that Hammerstein had used for his African-American characters both embarrassing and demeaning, and the show has not had a New York revival until now. Notwithstanding, the first London production in 1991-92 was also a tremendous success at the Old Vic Theatre with a mix of both opera and theater stars in the cast. [more]

God Save Queen Pam

June 30, 2018

This is "God Save Queen Pam"’s world premiere and though spirited, it’s sluggish at a full length of two and half hours with an intermission.  There’s repetitiousness, extraneousness and a wan presentation. With editing that enforces more of the plot and higher production values it’s conceivable that its evident whimsical charms could be whipped up into a madcap entertainment.  For now, it’s best viewed as a workshop with potential that showcases the game cast. [more]

Lonesome Blues

June 20, 2018

The show then become energized when Babatundé describes how Jefferson was discovered by a music executive when he was singing on the Texas streets while holding a tin cup. A recording contract follows and Jefferson became a leading blues performer in the 1920’s. Another bright sequence is a recreation of a concert. In the second half, we learn more about Johnson and the narration is more connected to the musical portions as it successfully concludes. [more]

Desperate Measures

June 14, 2018

Shakespearean spoofs are almost as old as Shakespeare himself, dating back to at least the Restoration period. Although the vast majority has faded into history, there are still some real standouts like the classic musical "Kiss Me, Kate," which thanks largely to Cole Porter is arguably even more enjoyable than its source material, a rare feat that the relatively new musical "Desperate Measures," now in its second off-Broadway run, also accomplishes. [more]

The Beast in the Jungle

May 28, 2018

While "The Beast in the Jungle" is a musical for our time it contains a message that was dear to the heart of writer Henry James, that of the unlived life. Ultimately very moving when the story reaches its conclusion, the exquisite Vineyard Theatre production is for elite tastes but all dedicated theatergoers, not the casual entertainment seekers, should see it. It may well start a new trend in theatre musicals, one in which the emotional sections are danced rather than sung. [more]

Molasses in January

May 28, 2018

Standing in the way of the show’s success is the workshop-like production. Some of Pellegrino’s melodies are pleasant but musical director Michael Wittenberg’s piano playing drowns out many of the weak voices. The lyrics tend to be very thin and extremely repetitious. The uncredited set is actually that of another show with unnecessary portions covered over in brown cloth, giving the look of the show no atmosphere whatever. The uncredited costumes are mainly coordinated in bland brown and white which does not help recall the period one bit. Stone’s choreography is extremely basic and not very decorative. If you sit on the left side of the theater, you are likely to be blinded periodically by designer Christina Verde’s two spotlights aimed right into the eyes of the viewers. [more]

Me and My Girl

May 14, 2018

Mr. Carlyle’s giddy opening is a thrilling mise-en-scène of a chorus line of servants, floating props and a grand back drop of a miniature representation of the country estate where the action is set. Act II starts with a rollicking cricket and tennis on the lawn segment showcasing cast members in gleaming casual wear and the commanding gyrations of Mark Evans who wonderfully plays a fatuous cad. There’s also a daffy number where portraits of ancestors in clothing of different eras come to life and dance. [more]

My Fair Lady (Lincoln Center Theater)

May 14, 2018

With an enormous painted backdrop depicting London and featuring St. Paul’s Cathedral and a lamppost (the glorious sets have been designed by Michael Yeargan), the musical begins as Covent Garden pivots into view on a revolving stage. Though, from the moment that we see him in the opening scene, Hadden-Paton seems too young as Higgins in comparison to Rex Harrison, who originated the part, he is actually closer in age to Shaw’s intentions. He also sings more melodically than Harrison, who famously song-spoke his way through the role. Though Ambrose’s voice seems weak at first (“Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?”), it gains in strength and stature as she proceeds. [more]
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