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Musicals

Hundred Days

December 12, 2017

Written by The Bengsons and Sarah Gancher, the show presents a stylized take on the couple’s love at first sight meeting, the complications it caused with their partners at the time, their instant romance and quick marriage.  It’s a New York story as they lived in Astoria, there’s mention of a memorable walk from Canal Street to The Cloisters, and a trip to Coney Island is pivotal. [more]

SpongeBob SquarePants, The Broadway Musical

December 11, 2017

Decked out in nerdy regalia of a yellow shirt, red tie and plaid pants with suspenders, Ethan Slater is terrific as SpongeBob. The immensely personable Mr. Slater wonderfully sings, dances and acts with the force of a Broadway titan such as Robert Morse in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." Using whiny vocal inflections and animated facial expressions, Slater perfectly replicates the essence of the television character. [more]

Cross That River: A Tale of the Black West

December 7, 2017

Serving as both narrator and protagonist, Harris portrays Blue, a runaway slave who crossed the Sabine River from Louisiana to Texas in search of his elusive freedom. To tell us everything that came before and after this momentous event, Harris is joined by three other impressive vocalists/performers in a concert-style presentation that has all the charm and verve of an old radio play. [more]

Home for the Holidays

November 22, 2017

"American Idol" winner Candice Glover, "The Voice"’s Josh Kaufman, "America’s Got Talent"’s Bianca Ryan and the attractive, married couple Peter Hollens and Evynne Hollens, who are popular on YouTube, comprise the youthful cast. They all bulldoze their way through more then 20 classics.  The vocal grandstanding is matched with overly expressive gestures and grimaces that invariably crush the meanings of the songs. [more]

The Mad Ones

November 17, 2017

Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk’s original book is filled with incidents, vignettes, reflections, observations, and flashbacks, but short on actual plot.  There is deciding on which college to attend, or not to go to college at all in order to find oneself, and the suspense of passing a driving test. A tragic occurrence is a major event. [more]

Billy and the Killers

November 12, 2017

In their new rock musical "Billy and the Killers," lyricist/librettist Jim Shankman and composer Peter Stopschinski channel Nicholas Ray, David Lynch, Elvis Presley, and Dashiell Hammett to concoct a muddled tale of teenage rebellion that dead-ends in an even less coherent murder trial. Along the way, there are some well-performed songs whose lyrics seem to be tied to the plot, but it’s often hard to tell, since, as you probably already know, proper enunciation is not what rock ‘n’ roll is all about, man. [more]

Of Thee I Sing (MasterVoices)

November 10, 2017

Leave it to George S. Kaufman and collaborator Morrie Ryskind (the Marx Brothers’ "The Cocoanuts," "Animal Crackers," "A Night at the Opera" as well as the Gershwins’ "Strike Up the Band"), lyricist Ira and composer George to come up with the first all satirical political musical and be prophetic as well. Led by Tony Award nominees Bryce Pinkham, Denée Benton, Kevin Chamberlin, Brad Oscar and Tony winner Chuck Cooper, this concert adaptation proves that there is still life in the 86-year-old musical. [more]

Red Roses, Green Gold

October 30, 2017

The score is comprised of Jerry Garcia & Robert Hunter’s Grateful Dead music and lyrics with additional music and lyrics by Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bob Weir, and Bill Kreutzmann. It’s all an engaging patchwork well-realized by Jeff Chimenti’s polished musical supervision and arrangements. Though it’s wonderful experiencing such spirited renditions of Grateful Dead classics such as “Truckin,” “Casey Jones,” “Alabama Getaway” and “A Touch of Grey” by the talented ensemble, "Red Roses, Green Gold" doesn’t really cohere into a satisfying work of musical theater. [more]

This One’s for the Girls

October 29, 2017

During the jam-packed ninety minutes of "This One’s For the Girls," the foursome run through a batch of songs that show the ups and downs of the last one hundred or so years through the eyes of women. Ms. Marcic puts her characters through the romantic, social and professional wringer.  Their individual tales are illuminated by songs and clever dialogue, helped by the set design of Josh Iacovelli which includes walls painted with artful pictures of famous ladies and a continuous slide show of portraits and scenes of historic and social importance such as fashions, sheet music, popular literature and family portraits.  Mr. Iacovelli also designed the subtle lighting which makes the most of the tiny stage. [more]

Bells Are Ringing

October 24, 2017

Boycott gets to sing a bounty of scintillating songs including “It’s A Perfect Relationship,” “Is It A Crime?,” “I’m Goin’ Back” and her duets with Heuser in “Better Than a Dream” (written for the film version) and “Long Before I Knew You.” Colgan’s choreography includes witty dance numbers to “Independent,” “I Met a Girl”, “Mu-Cha-Cha,” and “The Midas Touch.” Sue and Otto have a hilarious parody of the operetta aria in “Salzburg (By the Sea),” and the singer and girls of the Pyramid Club do a clever take on a cut-rate Busby Berkeley number to “The Midas Touch.” [more]

{my lingerie play} 2017: THE CONCERT AND CALL TO ARMS!!!!!!!!! THE FINAL INSTALLATION

October 15, 2017

As the show progresses with intermittent songs, the other musicians/singers (Ryan McCurdy, Matt Park, and Rocky Vega) also strip down to their underwear/lingerie. The sounds they all make are, at times, infectious. And Oh is a natural-born performer, who instantly has us in her thrall. Though the show has been co-directed by Orion Stephanie Johnstone and Oh, it’s hard to imagine anyone reining in its star. And if the “first installation” of Oh’s latest show occurred when she stood on a soap-box in Times Square pontificating in 2014, it’s hard to say how it’s progressed since then. Unless you were there, you just wouldn’t know. [more]

Desperate Measures

October 13, 2017

While not all musicals from Shakespeare have worked and updates are particularly risky, "Desperate Measures" avoids all of the pitfalls and is a refreshing and satisfying work in its own right. The catchy score has superb songs in the vein of the Broadway western musical.  It is hoped the show has a long life beyond this production, like its young hero, in years to come. [more]

Syncing Ink

October 11, 2017

Mr. Njikam offers a witty take on the classic mythology of a hero’s episodic journey with a lively African-American slant. There are a lot of high school and college scenes with wise teachers referring to James Baldwin and W.E.B. Du Bois, combative students, a dying father and an imperious mother. Rhyming battles, love and enlightenment occur along the way. The narrative is so eventful and spread out that it can be difficult taking it all in and its overall impact is diluted. [more]

The Apple Tree

October 10, 2017

Part of the problem is the lack of innovation in Ray Roderick’s staging in this show which calls out for invention and clever handling of sets and props. Devin Vogel’s colorless stage design (making use mainly of a ladder in the first and third stories) and Hope Salvan’s equally colorless costumes for most of the show (pale grey and blue tee-shirts and jeans for the first one-act) do not help bring any atmosphere to the three separate stories which span the time scheme from Biblical days up to the present. All three stories are narrated or introduced by The Balladeer who also plays the Snake in the first story. While such songs as the catchy “Forbidden Fruit,” the lovely “What Makes Me Love Him?,” the sultry “I’ve Got What You Want,” and the folk-rock ballad, “You Are Not Real” still impress, the musical staging is lacking in showmanship and pizzazz. [more]

Loveless Texas

September 17, 2017

Although the plot has been reset in Loveless, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana, circa 1929, it is an improvement over the original story as a romantic comedy: Shakespeare’s version ends with a death and four pairs of lovers departing and agreeing to meet in a year’s time. Loveless, Texas puts the funeral at the end of the first act, and brings all four couples, plus two more, together by the final curtain, which is much more satisfying. (No spoiler this as it is obvious what will happen – just not so obvious how they will get there.) [more]

Van Gogh’s Ear

August 21, 2017

Projected titles indicate place and year—beginning with Arles, 1888 and progressing until van Gogh’s suicide—which we hear as an offstage gunshot—in July of 1890. The audience is treated to Vincent’s thoughts on his painting technique, his poverty, his mental health, his fellow artists, stars, sunflowers, all interrupted by chamber music by Debussy, Fauré, Chausson and Franck played—in various combinations—by Henry Wang (violin), Yuval Herz (violin), Chich-Fan Yiu (viola), Timotheos Petrin (cello), Max Barros (piano) and Renana Gutman (piano). [more]

Come Light My Cigarette

August 20, 2017

But Cohen the composer is another matter entirely--his jazz-inflected songs make "Come Light My Cigarette" a gem of a chamber musical. As more and more of the songs are revealed, time and again one is reminded of "Trouble in Tahiti." And like that classic Leonard Bernstein opera, "Come Light My Cigarette" appears to be set in the 1950’s, which the music evokes. So do the busy but impressive set and costumes, both designed by Craig Napoliello. [more]

Lili Marlene

August 19, 2017

The songs never come up to the title song made famous by Marlene Dietrich who’s mentioned several times during the play. Antin’s attempt at playful seduction, “Take Me Home Tonight,” sung by the half-dressed cabaret girls and his German-style drinking song, “Fill My Stein with Beer” are pleasant pastiche, but “How Can Germany Survive?” (sung by the beleaguered Willi) and “Time to Stand Up” (sung by Josef) are heavy-handed and obvious. The lyrics throughout, even in the love songs are of the “moon-June” variety, but, as mentioned, are sung with great feeling. [more]

Trinkets

August 15, 2017

Antyon LeMonte, Honey Davenport, Jay Knowles and Kevin Aviance in a scene from “Trinkets” [more]

Jerry’s Girls

August 8, 2017

The revival at the York is being seen in yet a new version of the show that began as a cabaret in 1981 and went to Broadway in 1985. Created by director Larry Alford, choreographer Wayne Alford and composer Herman, the original show included new songs written especially for the show, only one of which remains in the revival. However, as directed by Pamela Hunt ("The Musical of Musicals"), this version of "Jerry’s Girls" organizes the songs more faithfully by around each show and includes the greatest hits from "Hello, Dolly!," "Mack and Mabel," "Milk and Honey," "Mame," two numbers from "Dear World," and ending with a medley from "La Cage aux Folles." Along the way are also two unfamiliar numbers from Herman’s 1960’s revue "Parade." [more]

Curvy Widow

August 6, 2017

While the dialogue offers some stabs at humor and Opel--a first-rate comedienne of the old school--usually excels at comic timing, much of it falls flat here. Most of the 90-minute, intermission-less piece focuses, naturally enough, on Bobby’s attempts to create a new life for herself, ultimately meaning a new relationship. It’s during her second visit with the shrink that he says, “I’m making getting laid a medical directive”-- to which Bobby replies, “Can you do that?” effectively ending the scene. [more]

Georama: An American Panorama Told on Three Miles of Canvas

August 5, 2017

Book writers West Hyler and Matt Schatz have taken these facts and woven a charming piece of Americana that explores idealism coming up against cynicism. It’s very well structured, amusing and thoughtful. There are a few zingers that could be interpreted as referring to President Trump.  Their chief conceit is having Banvard’s early associate Taylor, later become Barnum, and their rivalry becomes a focal point of the show. [more]

Backbeard: The Musical

August 4, 2017

Matthew McElligott, Larry Tuxbury and Brian Sheldon’s book is a witty, smart and sharp take on pirate lore laced with a child’s sense of individuality, tolerance and inclusivity.  It’s adapted from Mr. McElligott’s acclaimed series of children’s books. McElligott, Mr. Tuxbury and Michael Musial’s lyrics are quite accomplished and chock of full of crafty rhymes such as scarf with barf.  Mr. Musial’s euphorically tuneful music completes the marvelous score, that’s perfectly rendered by Barbara Musial’s skillful music direction. [more]

Money Talks: The Musical

July 24, 2017

The genial Ralph Byers’ performance as Franklin is heroic as he is onstage for virtually the entire length of the show. Mr. Byers marvelously sings, dances and cracks wise, while channeling the familiar Franklin persona with his wry vocal delivery. Byers exudes dignity, serenity and focus despite the deficient material. [more]

Night Tide

July 22, 2017

Mora works as a mermaid in a tank at the sideshow owned by the crusty, old Captain Murdock who rescued and raised her. As her romance with Johnny blossoms, there are complications. Her previous two boyfriends died under mysterious circumstances. An ominous woman in black mills about and there’s a fortuneteller looming over the action, as the plot builds to a tragic finale. There is also the possibility that Mora is a real mermaid. [more]

Matthew McConaughey vs. The Devil: An American Myth

July 15, 2017

Vamping and slinking around in a bright, red tunic laden with rhinestones and wearing black tights, the vivacious Lesli Margherita steals and salvages the show as Mephistopheles. With the physical allure of the young Gina Gershon and the musical comedy talents of the young Donna Murphy, and her own quirky persona, Ms. Margherita is commanding.  It’s a proverbial case of “I couldn’t take my eyes off her,” and “everything she said and did got a laugh.” [more]

Errol and Fidel

July 15, 2017

Conveying the premature decrepitness of Errol Flynn with flair is Jonathan Stewart. His hair styled and with a thin mustache, the charming Mr. Stewart resembles Flynn and channels his dissolute persona and good humor with a melodious, slight Australian accent. The bearded and youthful George Psomas totally captures the look and essence of the early Fidel Castro with his edgy bearing.  Combining sensuality, a lush singing voice and superior comic timing, Mr. Psomas is delightful.  He and Stewart’s scenes together energize the show, particularly their clash near the end. [more]

Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie

July 14, 2017

Physically lean, with gaunt but animated features, the immensely charming David M. Lutken plays the narrator and sings many of the numbers. Mr. Lutken magnificently captures the essence of Guthrie with his wry twang, beaming smile and dramatic presence. This dimension is complete when he puts on a blue cap like Guthrie’s iconic one. That image is on display onstage, with a cigarette dangling from the side of Guthrie’s mouth. [more]

Bastard Jones

July 9, 2017

Bastard Jones is surprisingly accessible for a contemporary musical based on a long and episodic 18th century novel. Sophisticated and off-color, naughty but nice, it proves to be a sharp and irreverent entertainment. With a terrific cast and a star making performance by Evan Ruggiero, witty and clever, Bastard Jones is both a delightful 18th century and 21st century evening in the theater. [more]

Me the People: The Trump America Musical

July 2, 2017

The animated and charismatic Mr. Spitaletta is the standout of the cast, vibrantly appearing in numerous roles.  Highlights of his portrayals are a commanding Russian agent spoofing Danny Kaye’s tongue-twisting patter number "Tschaikowsky (and Other Russians)" from Kurt Weil’s "Lady in The Dark," and a rollicking caricature of Richard Nixon. Mr. Spitaletta is an ever-present delight. [more]

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]
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