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Broadway

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway

December 23, 2016

We knew it was a great novel, but who knew Leo Tolstoy’s "War and Peace," Part I, would make such an exciting and innovative electro pop-rock opera? Not that the epic novel isn’t a fantastic read, but how to successfully put this 1,200 page novel on the stage? (Prokofiev’s opera needed 70 characters and 13 sequences.) First seen in 2012 for a sold-out 39 performance run at Ars Nova, this sung-through electro pop-rock opera, was then presented in 2013 at a supper club called Kazino (Russian for “Casino”) in the Meatpacking District, twice the size of the Ars Nova space, built specifically to house the show, and later it was moved uptown to a Kazino put up on 45th Street. [more]

The Band’s Visit

December 17, 2016

Seven musicians of Egypt’s Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra have been sent to Israel to open the new Arab cultural center at Petah Tivah. Due to a mix up at the border, they end up in the dead-end desert town of Bet Hatikva which has no hotel, no culture, and no bus until the morning. However, their visit is the most interesting thing to happen in Bet Hatikva in years as these unlikely visitors represent something different from the outside world. Restaurant owner Dina (Lenk) once a dancer in a big city, now resigned to her boring fate, takes pity on them, feeds them and arranges for them to stay the night in three places including her home. She takes dour, formal conductor Tewfiq (Shalhoub) and young ladies’ man, Haled (Ari’el Stachel). Although the visit is only one night, none of them will ever be the same again. [more]

In Transit

December 16, 2016

The score by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth is a pleasant collection of serviceable songs. Their book, based on their original concept, is a workmanlike blueprint of peppy clichés. It does have topical references such as the Pizza Rat. The show lasts one hour and 40 minutes without an intermission and somewhat lags due to the familiar plot threads. [more]

A Bronx Tale

December 14, 2016

On Beowulf Boritt’s set of three apartment towers of fire escapes and store fronts, the musical begins with a doo-wop group singing a cappella in close harmony under a Belmont Avenue sign, setting a properly nostalgic mood. The musical follows the plotline of the original. The main character, the Chazz stand-in, is young Calogero, first seen as a youngster (a wonderfully unaffected Hudson Loverro) and then as a young man (handsome and passionate Bobby Conte Thornton), whose father Lorenzo (Richard H. Blake, totally believable) is a hard-working, honest bus driver and whose mother is a housewife Rosina (Lucia Giannetta who makes the most of a small part). [more]

Falsettos

November 14, 2016

Throughout it all, Finn’s songs illuminate the joys, loves, hates, passions and complaints of this delightful cast of characters. From the opening “Four Jews in a Room Bitching” to the exquisitely moving final song, “What Would I Do?,” the score is full of melody and witty wordplay. There are songs about Mendel’s sessions (“Marvin at the Psychiatrist, a Three Part Mini-Opera” and “Jason’s Therapy”), a marriage proposal, a nervous breakdown song (“Trina’s Song”), a hilarious song about Jason’s little league (“The Baseball Game”), an ominous song (“Something Bad is Happening”) and several love songs (“I Never Wanted to Love You,” “Making a Home,” “Unlikely Lovers,” “The Games I Play” and the previously mentioned “What Would I Do?”). [more]

Cats

August 9, 2016

The debonair resident of posh St. James, and Gus, the theatre cat, are both played with finesse by Christopher Gurr, whose “Gus the Theatre Cat” who nearly steals the show away from the more famous “Memory,” here sung by an underwhelming, but pretty-voiced Leona Lewis, the British three-time Grammy Award nominee, as the bedraggled, superannuated beauty, Grizabella. Mr. Gurr’s wistful singing and great acting movingly communicate his tale of theatrical greatness and all the actors he had known (most completely forgotten by contemporary audiences). [more]

Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All that Followed

June 27, 2016

"Shuffle Along..." follows the travails and triumphs of the creators of the 1921 David that fought what was at first a losing battle against the Goliath of the Broadway powers-that-be. The quartet that put the show together on a long road tour were libretto creators F.E. Miller (Brian Stokes Mitchell whose charisma and mind-boggling professionalism makes his character the safe harbor) and his partner, Aubrey Lyles (Arbender Robinson, brilliantly taking on the part usually played by Billy Porter); composer, Noble Sissle (Joshua Henry, giving a quietly dignified performance as an artist whose disappointment in America takes him to Africa) and lyricist, Eubie Blake (Brandon Victor Dixon, the more effervescent and demanding of the two songwriters). [more]

Paramour (Cirque du Soleil)

June 9, 2016

"Paramour," the Cirque du Soleil’s stab at producing a Broadway style musical at the Lyric Theatre, is the circus equivalent of a jukebox musical. Instead of songbook—Beach Boys, Four Seasons, Carole King, etc.—this show is a panoply of circus shtick: juggling acts, trampoline chases, trapeze acts, contortionists, teeter board high fliers, etc. Although the circus bits aren’t truly integrated into the overblown plot—a rather silly "42nd Street"/"A Star is Born"/"Red Shoes" mash-up—it’s great to see the Cirque du Soleil performers in any context, but why the creators couldn’t dovetail the wonderful circus bits with an intelligent plot, is a mystery considering all the money that clearly went into "Paramour." [more]

American Psycho The Musical

May 16, 2016

Stylish and stylized, the stage design includes Es Devlin’s white box of a set which transforms instantaneously into apartments, offices, restaurants, discos, a health club, a locker room, and the beach in the Hamptons. Color-coordinated with lighting by Justin Townsend and costumes by Katrina Lindsay, the stage picture is often black and white with a touch of red, a tie, the men’s suspenders, a leopard, a bikini, or eventually splashes of blood. Townsend’s lights turn the set blue, green or red. The spectacular ever-changing video design by Finn Ross includes abstracts, cartoons, cityscapes, computer generated designs. Initially the main characters all in black, but as the story spins out of control other colors are added. And for eye candy, there are the hardbodied members of the cast with physiques to die for, with the men with enviable abs often in their shorts. [more]

Dear Evan Hansen

May 10, 2016

The way Mr. Levenson keeps things moving is both clever and exhausting. The songs mostly explore the inner emotional lives of the characters: “Waving through a Window” (Evan’s feelings of alienation); “Anyone Have a Map?” (frustrations of the two moms); “To Break in a Glove” (Larry Murphy’s heartbreaking song of unfulfilled paternal rituals); and the heartbreak and promise of “For Forever” which ends the show. [more]

Tuck Everlasting The Musical

May 8, 2016

The problem with the new show with a libretto by first timers Claudia Shear and Tim Federle now at the Broadhurst Theatre is that it is all so bland - which is not true of the novel which had grit as well as many surprises. The new prologue pretty much gives away the secret of the Tuck family’s discovery of the fountain of youth. The score by Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen (who wrote the Off Broadway musical 'The Burnt Part Boys") is pleasant but innocuous. Director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw who currently has the more flashy "Book of Mormon," "Aladdin" and "Something Rotten!" simultaneously running on Broadway has created a low-key production, atypical of his usual style, which seems a bit lost on the big Broadway stage. This might have worked better in a smaller Off Broadway house. [more]

Waitress

April 30, 2016

The musical’s new libretto, written by Jessie Nelson, riffs broadly on Shelly’s quietly poignant storyline and her very human, finely etched characters. The characters, broadened and amped up several notches to register on the large stage of a Broadway house, eventually do endear themselves even if they are just a bit shy of caricature. Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles’ music and lyrics further perpetuate the broad brush paint job with all the characters getting an exultantly defining number that elucidates their eccentric stories or the turmoil in their minds. [more]

Bright Star

March 30, 2016

"Bright Star," the new bluegrass/country music comedy-drama, rises—just barely—above Hallmark Network romance level thanks to its energetic score by the Hollywood star, Steve Martin (music and book) and singer-songwriter Edie Brickell (lyrics) and an astonishing, charismatic performance of Carmen Cusack in her Broadway debut. [more]

She Loves Me

March 29, 2016

Scott Ellis’ direction avoids caricature, even in the most broadly drawn characters like the man-hungry Ilona, the gigolo Steven and the scared, but pragmatic clerk Sipos. He make the one touch of melodrama, involving Maraczek’s marriage, seem human and a touch tragic, helped by Mr. Jennings subtle, but exuberant performance. He also draws a tender performance from Ms. Benanti who gets to use the more operatic part of her marvelous voice. [more]

Disaster!

March 21, 2016

Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick’s libretto mocks all the famous disaster films of the seventies, like 'Jaws,' "Earthquake," "The Poseidon Adventure," "The Towering Inferno," "Ben," etc., and squeezes every Bible worthy catastrophe onto the Nederlander stage, all the while using hit songs from the seventies, sung live, to punctuate the libretto with music that makes singing—and dancing—along difficult to avoid. [more]

Fiddler on the Roof

February 10, 2016

Do not expect an exact reproduction of the original which after four revivals is probably to the good. With the consent of lyricist Sheldon Harnick, the only surviving creator, Sher has added a prologue and an epilogue that is new. When the curtain goes up, Burstein dressed in a contemporary parka is standing near an abandoned railway station in Anatevka reading from a book (the original Sholom Aleichem stories? a guide book?) and then he removes his coat revealing that he is in Tevye’s costume and joins the opening scene back in 1905. At the end of the musical, Burstein again in the contemporary parka joins the line of refugees leaving the town on their way to the border and picks up Tevye’s cart. The modern relevance to the current situation in Europe and in the Middle East is made patently clear. [more]

School of Rock – The Musical

December 31, 2015

Though the stage show does not have the imitable and irrepressible Jack Black, it does have rising stars Alex Brightman and Sierra Boggess who make the roles of hero Dewey Finn and Principal Rosalie Mullins their own. The book by Julian Fellows (television’s "Downton Abbey" and the stage version of" Mary Poppins") based on the screenplay by Mike White is extremely faithful to the movie while also giving several of the students’ backstories which makes them more three-dimensional. Before the show begins, we are told by a voice-over (Webber?) that all of the students play their own instruments. [more]

The Color Purple

December 19, 2015

Playwright Marsha Norman’s book brilliantly and very faithfully streamlines and extracts the events and themes of the novel and film. These include racism, sexism, self-esteem and same-sex attraction. In addition, Ms. Norman created the clever device of three gossiping church ladies who appear throughout and briskly impart exposition. Her work swiftly and skillfully renders this sprawling tale into a contained and emotionally involving narrative. [more]

Allegiance

December 4, 2015

Inspired by George Takei’s experiences in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, "Allegiance" is a sometimes moving, sometimes stodgy musical about this terrible injustice perpetrated against Japanese-Americans. One hundred and twenty thousand Japanese-American men, women and children, classified as “enemy aliens,” were forcibly removed from their homes and businesses and incarcerated under terrible, inhumane conditions, far from their West Coast homes. [more]

On Your Feet!

November 16, 2015

Sergio Trujillo’s exhilarating choreography is a ceaseless extravaganza of mostly Salsa numbers. The costumes by designer ESosa are appropriately heavy on glitz. David Rockwell’s seemingly simple and highly creative set design chiefly consists of textured white panels on which muted projections and videos are shown. Designed by Darrel Maloney, these are a captivating assemblage of palm trees, stucco houses and skies that artfully depict Cuba, Miami, and other locales. Kenneth Posner’s crisp lighting design further enhances the show’s vivid visual qualities. [more]

Dames At Sea

October 29, 2015

The musical first appeared in 1966 at the small historic Off-Off Broadway performance space Café Cino in New York City’s Greenwich Village as "Dames at Sea, or Golddiggers Afloat." It was an affectionate and clever spoof that ran for 148 performances. Eighteen-year-old Bernadette Peters made a great success in it as Ruby, a young girl from Utah who just got off a train in New York City and becomes a Broadway star. Of course, Ruby Keeler comes to mind. [more]

Spring Awakening

October 9, 2015

Aside from its notable staging, this production is also receiving a great deal off attention for facilitating the Broadway debut of Marlee Matlin, the only deaf Academy Award-winner to date. While her role as several of the town’s adult women is not a particularly weighty one, she imbues them with her characteristic fervor. Sandra Mae Frank and Katie Boeck work well together to share the character Wendla; Boeck’s voice fluidly pairs with Frank’s signing to separate the inner turmoil and outer façade of a character whose mother refuses to listen. Likewise notable is the always-wonderful Broadway and television veteran Krysta Rodriguez, whose portrayal (both sung and signed) of Ilse, a homeless bohemian clinging to her sanity, is uniquely dark and dangerous. [more]

“Les Misérables” Revisited

October 6, 2015

Two starry new cast members add luster to the show: English musical and opera star Alfie Boe as the tragic Jean Valjean and Tony Award nominee Montego Glover as the ill-fated Fantine. Their fresh takes on these characters—their often surprising choices—are in synch with the directors’ emphasis on the inner lives of this colorful panoply of Victor Hugo’s mid-nineteenth century French characters. [more]
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