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Musicals

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]

The New Yorkers: A Sociological Musical Satire

March 29, 2017

Herbert Fields’s book was based on a story by E. Ray Goetz and New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno. This clunky concert adaptation by Jack Viertel is crammed with double entendres, puns, anachronisms, and contemporary inside jokes that mostly thud. [more]

Anything Goes

March 20, 2017

The score which has been drawn from the four previous New York productions of Anything Goes plays like a Cole Porter greatest hits parade and almost all of the songs are among his most popular masterpieces. Played by a three piece combo expertly led by Christopher Stephens, the show has just the right syncopated thirties sound, while the perfect diction on the part of the large cast makes every lyric a gem. The dazzling production numbers which often evolve into precision tap dances with most of the 18 member cast trapping in unison are as dazzling as Jack Maisenbach’s brightly colored, coordinated costumes. This excellently cast production has dancers, singers, comedians and character actors all work at the top of their game. [more]

Come From Away

March 16, 2017

The songs push the plot along, ranging from numbers about the locals’ dealing with valuable resources (“Blankets and Bedding”) to the quiet awe the visitors express at the local scenery (“Darkness and Trees”). “Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere” and “Something’s Missing,” eloquently deal with the short-term emotional turbulence that eventually steadied to mutual admiration and many long-term friendships. [more]

Kid Victory

March 6, 2017

It would be difficult to imagine anything darker than the content of the second musical collaboration by John Kander and Greg Pierce having its New York premiere at the Vineyard Theatre. Possibly Kander’s own"Cabaret" or "The Visit" - but both take place long ago and in faraway lands. Kid Victory relates the tale of a 17-year-old youth who was kidnapped for a year and has returned to his Kansas family. All the members of the community want to behave as though nothing has changed but for Luke Browst nothing is the same and things can’t go back to the way there were before. [more]

Louisiana Purchase

March 4, 2017

Based on a story by lyricist/bookwriter/producer B.G. DeSylva (“Good News,” “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” “The Varsity Drag”), this musical satire sends unworldly, teetotaler Oliver P. Loganberry, “the Watchdog of the Senate,” to New Orleans to investigate the corrupt dealings of the Louisiana Purchasing Company run by Jimmy Taylor, Colonel Davis, Junior Davis, Dean Manning of the university, and Captain Whitfield of the city government. Jimmy, the president of the company, who was out of town when the others used his powers of attorney for their illegal scheme, is left to sort out the mess. [more]

Dear World

March 1, 2017

Having played such indomitable women as Mama Rose and Maria Callas, Daly slips into the role of the Madwoman of Chaillot which fits her like a glove with her crisp, authoritative delivery. As a woman who refuses to see reality for what it is, she gives a powerful rendition of “I Don’t Want to Know,” the show’s only hit song. She does a lovely job with the new number, “A Sensible Woman,” as well as the haunting ballad, “And I Was Beautiful.” [more]

Interview: A New Musical

February 28, 2017

Composer Soo Hyun Huh’s original music is a fine and eclectic assortment of modern melodies. The English lyrics are written by Bryan Michaels. The combined results are stilted and pedestrian. The score is primarily sung dialogue with some actual if indifferent songs. Mr. Michaels has also translated Jung Hwa Choo’s book into English. [more]

Sunset Boulevard

February 17, 2017

The score remains an uneven but catchy patchwork that has yielded several choice songs amidst the acceptable filler. Mr. Lloyd Webber’s music is a heady pastiche of old movie melodies with discernable portions of his" Evita" and "The Phantom of The Opera." Don Black and Christopher Hampton’s lyrics range from inspired to pedestrian. [more]

Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill: A Musical Voyage

February 15, 2017

One of the remarkable things about the theater songs of Kurt Weill is that like the later songs of Stephen Sondheim they are all really little one act plays which give the performers a great deal of latitude in how to perform them. As sung by Karl Josef Com, Rachel de Benedet, Michael Halling and Meghan Picerno and as narrated by Brian Charles Rooney, Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill is an extraordinary musical voyage through some of the greatest theater songs of all time written by among the best talents of the 20th century. [more]

Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

February 12, 2017

Red-haired, animated and engagingly boyish, 18-year-old Nicholas Barasch is sensational as Huckleberry Finn. Mr. Barasch is onstage virtually the entire time and winningly carries the show. As Jim, the runaway slave, Kyle Scatliffe brings dignity, forcefulness and powerful vocal ability during his commanding performance. [more]

Bound to Rise

February 9, 2017

Unfortunately, Policoff’s book is too cluttered with characters too allow for much development. While some of his lyrics are clever, most are prosaic and heavy-handed. As played by music directors Gregory Nissen and Jonathan Matthews, the score sound tinny, rather than melodic, for its 1890’s period. The direction by Oliver Conant, with an assist by Paul Murphy and Regan Batuello, is all over the place using various parts of the shabby (uncredited) set, so that it is too busy for its own good. This free-wheeling approach would be more suitable to a movie rather than the stage without a much strong hand in control. Occasionally the actors make a pithy remark about society or the political order and then freeze, starring at the audience. This Brechtian technique goes against the grain of the rest of the production, as does various character narrating themselves or others. [more]

Milk and Honey

January 30, 2017

While the jokes may be hoary, Unger’s production has cut down on the show’s sentimentality and given it a sharp edge which elevates the material. As the heroine Ruth, Runofsson is genuine, contemplative and sympathetic, while Delavan’s Phil is the strong silent type. They have the bulk of the songs and give lovely renditions of “There’s No Reason in the World,” “That Was Yesterday,” “Let’s Not Waste a Moment,” “As Simple As That.” Korey as the gossipy yente Clara Weiss who is free with her advice steals every scene she is in and gets to sing the clever ode to her late husband, “Hymn to Hymie” as well as lead the hilariously staged number, “Chin Up, Ladies” which includes witty audience participation. [more]

Love for Sale

January 26, 2017

The concept of Love for Sale, though not particularly original, is not a bad one, except for one very important factor: Ms. Burke is not up to either the singing or acting demands of Love for Sale, a voyage from innocence to jaded sophistication as told in mostly dark, melodramatic songs, ironically influenced by the American films that flooded Europe in the twenties and thirties. It’s an extraordinarily difficult repertoire that constantly threatens to be silly expressions of impossibly colorful and desperate characters. [more]
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