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Musicals

Love Quirks

June 28, 2022

Four appealingly performed single Manhattan roommates’ tangled romantic lives are depicted in the pleasant contemporary Off-Broadway musical, "Love Quirks," which has a rapturous score. Composer and lyricist Seth Bisen-Hersh’s striking melodies and literately crafted lyrics render the variety of songs with the polish of accomplished cabaret numbers. A standout is a gay male schoolteacher wryly ruminating while on a date. [more]

The Bedwetter

June 16, 2022

Comedian Sarah Silverman has turned her bestselling memoir, "The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee,"  into a musical with the help of co-book writer Joshua Harmon, author of this year’s award-winning "Prayer for the French Republic," and composer Adam Schlesinger ("Cry-Baby"), who passed away in 2020 just as the show was about to go into rehearsal prior to the pandemic. The new musical, simply called "The Bedwetter," like the book is by turns amusing, first hilarious and later serious. Anne Kauffman’s production has a top-notch cast headed by Bebe Neuwirth, Caissie Levy, Darren Goldstein and Rick Crom. [more]

Islander: A New Musical

June 7, 2022

An import from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, "Islander" embraces that renowned international jamboree's artistry and experimentalism, most notably by forgoing musicians for sound looping machines operated by Findlay and Tennick themselves. Especially for the technophobic (cough, cough), it's an extraordinary feat to witness actors become part of the production crew without the conceit ever feeling gimmicky or compromising the flow of the storytelling. That's no doubt due mostly to Findlay and Tennick's on-the-spot sound engineering abilities, which, to be sure, still take a backseat to their even more remarkable singing and acting. [more]

Romeo & Bernadette: A Musical Tale of Verona & Brooklyn

June 1, 2022

"Romeo & Bernadette" is a musical comedy worthy of the name that delivers on all counts. Mark Saltzman’s spoofing of the old story is great fun and his lines are very clever. The score with its famous melodies transformed in new ways is a lush feast for the each particularly as sung by this excellent cast. Under Justin Ross Cohen’s direction the cast brings this far-fetched story to brilliant life. One only hopes that the threat of the real story of Hamlet comes as a follow-up. [more]

¡Americano!

May 12, 2022

Tony Valdovinos who grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, was 18 before he found out that he was an undocumented immigrant. The new musical "¡Americano!" is based on the true story of his life and challenges. Impassioned and spirited with an animated cast that seems to be living their roles rather than acting them, the show is a superior musical entertainment. Staged with vigor and energy by Michael Barnard, artistic director of The Phoenix Theatre Company where the show premiered in 2020, and choreographer Sergio Mejia, ¡Americano! is both moving and entertaining, moving along with the speed of an express train with never a minute wasted in its urgent storytelling. [more]

Paradise Square

May 11, 2022

Based on historical facts, the new and exciting musical "Paradise Square" tells a story of fictional characters caught up in real events which lead up to the Draft Riots that occurred in Manhattan in July 1863. Set in the notorious neighborhood known as Five Points, renowned as the most dangerous place to live in the United States, it takes place mainly in the fictional Paradise Square Saloon in the real Paradise Square. Aside from the sensational dancing by choreographer Bill T. Jones and a rousing score by composer Jason Howland who also conducts, the show stars Joaquina Kalukango giving a show-stopping performance in the leading role. However, she is also surrounded by a great many leading characters played by actors at the top of their game. Like an epic adventure, Paradise Square will keep you engrossed until the very last moment. [more]

Mr. Saturday Night

May 6, 2022

Anyone else may find this decent show to be a tired affair which just about sustains its two-and-half-hour running time. The memory-piece book by Crystal, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel is based on their screenplay which ranges from the 1950’s to the 1990’s. It intends to be a loving tribute to a bygone show business era and fitfully succeeds at that. The schmaltz-laden dramatic writing never really rises above the rudimentary, rendering the events and conflicts with patness and clichés. Still, it offers choice roles that are marvelously performed by the other cast members. [more]

A Strange Loop

May 5, 2022

Deliriously and explicitly profane, Michael R. Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize winning musical, "A Strange Loop" has—unbelievably—made it to Broadway, produced by Playwrights Horizons, Page 73 and the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Jackson’s explicit portrait of a lost soul’s salty journey is alternately stunning and amusing, appealing and appalling, told at a breakneck pace through his book, lyrics and music.  It’s a rare, if dispiriting, portrait of a gay man who isn’t a paragon, a man who isn’t conventionally handsome, successful or rich. [more]

Suffs

April 30, 2022

Unfortunately, while Wells (Nikki M. James) and Mary Church Terrell (Cassondra James), another renowned Black suffragist, occasionally pop up to offer intersectional insights, they mostly come across as an addendum to the all-female and nonbinary musical's Paul-centric narrative. Taub knows Wells and Terrell obviously belong in the story she's trying to tell, but she hasn't figured out how to dramatize their inclusion yet. Other suffragists whose names should be much more well known today also receive paper-thin characterizations: Lucy Burns (Ally Bonino); Doris Stevens (Nadia Dandashi); Ruza Wenclawska (Hannah Cruz); Inez Milholland (Phillippa Soo). [more]

Funny Girl

April 29, 2022

Beanie Feldstein’s clunky rendition of “I'm the Greatest Star” crystalizes the absurdist dimension of this off-kilter first Broadway revival of the 1964 musical, "Funny Girl." With her nasal, often muffled singing, oddly emphatic line readings and smug mugging, in no way does she suggest a great star, yet this nearly three-hour show is centered around her. It instantly deflates with her wan introductory “Hello, gorgeous.” She does exhibit idiosyncratic pluck and stamina throughout. [more]

Harmony

April 18, 2022

Although 25 years have gone by since "Harmony" first tried out at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, the Barry Manilow/Bruce Sussman musical about the Comedian Harmonists is still relevant and timely. This historical musical based on true events which took place mainly in Germany from 1927- 1935 is a necessary reminder of the rise of Nazism and the naïve people who thought it would blow over. Produced by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, "Harmony" could not be in a more fitting setting to tell this story. Directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, the musical has been given a big Broadway-style production for its first New York appearance starring Chip Zien and Sierra Boggess as well as a cast of featured players. [more]

Songs About Trains

April 16, 2022

As a piece of theater, "Songs About Trains" is earnest and unique. Lead author (and performer) Beto O’Byrne, along with contributing authors Eugenie Chan, Reginald Edmund, Jay B Muskett and Rebecca Martínez (who also co-directs) have constructed a work that’s not definitely a musical and not quite a play, but more of a performance piece which sews stories together with music, dance and songs. [more]

The Life

April 12, 2022

The ubiquitous Billy Porter was given command of the most recent New York City Center Encores! presentation, the 1997 musical "The Life."  His direction and re-interpretation of this tawdry portrait of 42nd Street left a great deal to be desired, but strong performances by the leading players made vivid impressions. Originally written by the estimable Cy Coleman (music/book), Ira Gasman (lyrics/book) and David Newman (book), "The Life" is set in the 1980’s as seen from the point of view of a narrator, Old JoJo (Destan Owens, fine in a thankless, add-on role) who observed and commented on his past which included watching himself, Young JoJo (Mykal Kilgore, fine singer, but looking nothing like his counterpart) behave badly. The concert adaptation was by Porter himself. [more]

Penelope, Or How the Odyssey Was Really Written

April 7, 2022

The musical gets a great deal of mileage out of its humor particular in its parody of recognizable tropes. "Penelope, Or How The Odyssey Was Really Written" is an entertaining musical comedy which turns into a feminist statement in the final scenes between husband and wife at the end of the show which gives this ancient Greek tale a modern sensibility. From the way the audience greeted the new musical comedy "Penelope" at the preview performance under review, The York Theatre Company may have a big hit on their hands. [more]

Little Girl Blue

March 15, 2022

Nina Simone’s vocal talents, physical presence and spirit are all dazzlingly channeled by Laiona Michelle in her engaging self-written biographical concert-style musical, "Little Girl Blue." Ms. Michelle employs just enough of Simone’s cadences, facial expressions and physical gestures to create an authentic characterization while supremely singing over a dozen songs associated with the charismatic vocalist. The show’s well-researched spoken word portions deliver historical facts, life details and cultural commentary in the manner of Simone. [more]

Space Dogs

February 27, 2022

Heyman and the rest of the production team quickly turn "Space Dogs" into an exercise of quantity over quality. More lights. More noise. More projections. More props. It's theater as sensory overload, with success measured by distraction. The major problem is that it also leads to a lot of other annoyances, with Nathan Leigh's sound design doing nothing for the intelligibility of Hughes and Blaemire's lyrics, Mary Ellen Stebbins' concert lighting occasionally blinding the audience in MCC's small off-Broadway space, and Stefania Bulbarella's numerous projections just stoking the meaningless hurly-burly. [more]

The Music Man

February 22, 2022

Because of changing social mores, some Broadway musicals are assumed to make audiences uncomfortable today. Take for example Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "Carousel" whose protagonist is a wife-beater. The recent revival did everything in its power to mitigate this problem but did not succeed. Now we have the long awaited revival of Meredith Willson’s "The Music Man" starring film megastar Hugh Jackman as Professor Harold Hill and two-time Tony Award-winner Sutton Foster as Marian Paroo, the librarian and music teacher. The problem the director and producers had with this classic piece of Americana, set in 1912, is that the hero Professor Hill is a con-artist and a serial seducer with whom we are supposed to be sympathetic. However, in 2022 this is an obstacle in an era when lovable rogues are not acceptable as heroes. As a solution, Jackman has been directed by Jerry Zaks to play Harold Hill as low-key and muted as he possibly can. What this does is straitjackets Jackman’s personal charm and charisma which he normally has in spades. The result is an undercooked Music Man even though it has been given a big, expensive production – six Tony Award winners on stage and six in the production team - maybe the starriest cast in New York right now. [more]

Black No More

February 19, 2022

"Black No More," the new musical inspired by George S. Schuyler’s 1931 Afrofuturist novel, is the most exciting and inventive new show to be seen so far this season in New York though it is still in need of work. With a book by Academy Award-winning screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years a Slave), the stage version drops Schuyler’s scathing satire of Harlem Renaissance and Depression figures as well as its political election hijinks for a more direct story about race and racism in the United States. As brilliantly staged by Scott Elliott for The New Group, Black No More is also a play of ideas and will keep you thinking and debating long after the final curtain in this story of the sacrifices people have to make to change the world. [more]

MJ

February 10, 2022

Wheeldon and Pulitzer Award-winning playwright Lynn Nottage make every effort to hide the fact that MJ is a jukebox musical, despite the fact that the first notes of every song elicited loud shouts and applause (part of the reason the show runs two and a half hours). Nottage has invented a plodding framework for the show.  It is 1992 in Los Angeles. TV reporter, Rachel (a down-to-earth Whitney Bashor who acts as the play’s Greek chorus) and her hyperactive assistant, Alejandro (a charming Gabriel Ruiz) corral a reluctant Jackson to have his rehearsals for his huge upcoming 'Dangerous" tour documented. [more]

The Tap Dance Kid

February 4, 2022

Let’s start with the best:  The great Joshua Henry’s 11 o’clock number, “William’s Song,” a gut-wrenching revelatory song sung by the title character’s emotionally distant father.  Henry endows the number with the emotional punch of “And I Am Telling You” from "Dreamgirls."  Since Henry Krieger wrote the music to both songs the striking similarity is understandable.  Of course, Tom Eyen wrote the "Dreamgirls"’ vivid lyrics and librettro; Robert Lorick wrote the words for the pleasant, plot-moving score of "The Tap Dance Kid." "The Tap Dance Kid"—book by Charles Blackwell, based on the novel "Nobody’s Family Is Going to Change" by Louise Fitzhugh—is a simple domestic tale now reset in the 1950’s, gussied up with the brilliant tap choreography of Jared Grimes and the keen, vivifying direction of Kenny Leon.  But, even under Leon’s artful hand and Grimes’ beautifully performed numbers, "The Tap Dance Kid" remains a defiantly unimaginative story. [more]

The Hang

January 25, 2022

After a grand Pippin-style introductory opening, one exhilarating number follows another in acclaimed theater maker Taylor Mac’s "The Hang." Derived from jazz and opera, this vibrant musical fantasia is inspired by the Greek philosopher Socrates’ last hours in 399 BC Athens. He’d been sentenced to death by drinking the poison hemlock for “corrupting the youth” and “impiety.” The show is based on his student Plato’s account of these events. As there’s a homoerotic strain to the Greek philosophical milieu, "The Hang" has a raucous queer vibe. [more]

Whisper House

January 22, 2022

The songs which are mainly sung by Alex Boniello (usually with a guitar) and Molly Hager as the ghostly narrators are folk ballads which though lovely sound like a continuation of the same song. While the theme of racism against Asians is extremely timely, the treatment is wedded to the 1940’s and seems to be many years late. There is a great deal we do not learn about the characters which leaves holes in the plot. The tale is very derivative of earlier stories with the same tropes: haunted lighthouse (Thunder Rock), boy goes to live with strange relatives (The Grass Harp), malevolent ghosts, one male, one female (The Turn of the Screw), etc. [more]

Kimberly Akimbo

December 21, 2021

David Lindsay-Abaire’s early plays ("Fuddy Meers," "Kimberly Akimbo" and "Wonder of the World") were all whimsical or at least otherworldly. He has gone on to create musicals based on previously written stories, particularly "Shrek the Musical" with composer Jeanine Tesori. Now they have musicalized his play "Kimberly Akimbo" into a very impressive new show at Atlantic Theater Company which many may find works better than it did as a play due to the music and the songs. With a cast led by Tony Award-winner Victoria Clark in the title role, Jessica Stone’s production becomes more and more involving as it progresses to its satisfying climax. [more]

Flying Over Sunset

December 20, 2021

"Flying Over Sunset," Pulitzer Prize-winning bookwriter/director James Lapine’s new original show, is a “What If?” musical: using historical facts that are known about writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley, politician and diplomat Clare Boothe Luce, and actor and film star Cary Grant, he has created a fictitious story about their experimenting with LSD together in the late 1950’s together. The problem seems to be that he doesn’t appear to know much about them so that the results are extremely thin though the musical still manages to run a little under three hours. The songs by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Tom Kitt and lyricist Michael Korie don’t add a great deal and the production design which ought to be psychedelic is subdued and unadventurous. Stars Harry Hadden-Paton as Huxley, Carmen Cusack as Luce and Tony Yazbeck as Grant try valiantly but they can’t breathe life into generic cardboard cutouts. [more]

Company

December 18, 2021

This theatrical genius, responsible for the Tony Award winning plays "War Horse," "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" and the most recent revival of "Angels in America," knew that this 1970 musical comedy about a man about to turn 35 and having all his coupled friends trying to marry him off would seem dated in 2018 when she conceived of this version in London, in which the gender of the characters are reversed. With the help of another genius, composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim who rejiggered his wise and witty lyrics, Elliott has made this old show by bookwriter George Furth seem spanking new as if we had never seen it before even though this is the fourth New York revival. [more]

The Streets of New York

December 14, 2021

Cue the Irish Rep and its remounting of artistic director Charlotte Moore's musical "The Streets of New York," which the theatre first premiered twenty years ago in the aftermath of September 11. An affectionate adaptation of Dion Boucicault's 1857 melodrama "The Poor of New York," it returns in the wake of a different tragedy--a global pandemic that has claimed nearly 800,000 American lives and more than five million human beings worldwide--sharing the same social conscience as the Dickens classic but also encouraging the audience to do something more fun and cathartic: hiss at the greedy old man. Perhaps it's the Christmas story we actually need this year. [more]

Mrs. Doubtfire

December 12, 2021

Broadway fixture Rob McClure occasionally channels Robin Williams with sparkling riffs and simulated ad libs but makes the roles of Daniel and Mrs. Doubtfire his own and each distinctive especially with his trilling Scottish burr. With his commanding singing, dancing and acting talents, Mr. McClure is a stage marvel up there with Jim Dale, effortlessly veering from comic to poignant. Jenn Gambatese is delightful as Miranda, finely balancing seriousness with madcap as the pragmatic wife. As the children, Analise Scarpaci, Jake Ryan Flynn and Avery Sell all offer appealing characterizations. Brad Oscar is uproarious as always as Daniel’s brother. As his fierce husband, J. Harrison Ghee is magnetically hilarious. Peter Bartlett scores as a weird over the hill children’s television host. The animated Charity Angél Dawson’s child welfare official is a grand take on bureaucratic officiousness. In the brief role of a television network executive, Jodi Kimura is wickedly deadpan par excellence. [more]

Cheek to Cheek: Irving Berlin in Hollywood

December 6, 2021

This show is conceived, directed, and choreographed by Randy Skinner, and his four-time Tony Award-nominated talents shine throughout the production. The choreography is inventive, interactive, fun and impressive. His staging is well-balanced and keeps the transitions moving. The opening number, “Let Yourself Go” ("Follow the Fleet," 1936), sets the bar high with dynamic tapping that leaves the audience exhilarated and ready for more. Barry Kleinbort’s book is packed with interesting Berlin history and is full of charm and wit. Thank you, casting director Michael Cassara, for the great ensemble cast! Six performers were chosen to present this material:  Phillip Attmore, Jeremy Benton, Victoria Byrd, Kaitlyn Davidson, Joseph Medeiros, and Melanie Moore. All six actors move through the evening in harmony, both physically and vocally, interacting with each other in song and dance as though in conversation. [more]

A Sherlock Carol

November 30, 2021

Directed by playwright Mark Shanahan, A Sherlock Carol offers six actors playing 23 roles in this entertaining new adaptation. In the iconic role of Sherlock Holmes with so much history behind it and such well-known performances as those by Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett, Drew McVety is to be forgiven for seeming a bit bland, though he warms up as the story evolves and he becomes more invested in the solution to the two cases. As the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge, Thom Sesma is a sinister presence, suggesting that he is also the Ghost of Professor Moriarty who has previously haunted Holmes. Memorable is Isabel Keating who is required to use a variety of accents from the American Irene Adler to the Cockney sister of Tiny Tim, as well as singing a beautiful aria as the Countess of Morcar. Keating it may be recalled is the Tony Award nominee and Theatre World winner for her performance as “Judy Garland” in "The Boy from Oz." [more]

Diana, The Musical

November 22, 2021

If you are a Princess Diana completist, "Diana: The Musical" will satisfy your needs along with the deeper Spencer and The Queen and all the innumerable documentaries about this ill-fated fairy princess.  Those interested in delving deeper into the Princess Diana mystique will be disappointed with this superficial, but somehow entertaining, musical. [more]

The Visitor

November 20, 2021

David Hyde Pierce taking off his suit trousers to practice on a drum in his boxer shorts is one of many hilarious bits that are meshed with drama in "The Visitor." It’s a faithful, resonant and well-done musical adaptation of the acclaimed 2007 independent film of the same title. Book writers Kwame Kwei-Armah and Brian Yorkey stick closely to director/screenwriter Thomas McCarthy’s original vision while skillfully translating it for the stage. [more]

Assassins

November 18, 2021

As always in a John Doyle presentation, the production is professional, polished and accomplished. This time around he has not made changes to the script or the score except to include the climactic song “Something Just Broke” which was not in the original Off Broadway production but was added to the first London version in 1992 and has been used ever since. While the actors give excellent performances, the revival lacks emotion and heart which is strange considering the number of characters who die or who are wounded in the course of the show. It is as though they (and we) are numbed by much depiction of killing. Is there a way to fix this in a show which repeatedly has its cast shooting at presidents of the United States, in this case only in a fun house setting? [more]

Trevor: The Musical

November 16, 2021

The writers seem afraid to state what the story is all about, the word gay being mentioned exactly once. At two hours and 15 minutes including one intermission, today’s audience is way ahead of the plot, knowing exactly what will happen in advance. While the 1994 movie was 23 minutes, the musical seems padded and dragged out. Davis’ music is pleasant enough, but Collins’ lyrics are pedestrian and repetitious. The songs seem to have a limited vocabulary such as children’s books often do, but 13 year olds have a slang and vernacular that is hardly used. The biggest problem with the score is that the dream Diana Ross (played flamboyantly and spiritedly by Yasmeen Sulieman) gets to sing seven of her most iconic songs (“Do You Know?,” "It’s My Turn,” “Upside Down,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Remember Me,” “Endless Love” and “I’m Coming Out”) which are far superior to any of the new songs, always a mistake in a non-jukebox musical. [more]
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