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Broadway

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]

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical

April 30, 2018

Mr. McAnuff who worked wonders with his direction of "Jersey Boys" here offers a chilly vision that evokes a sterile landscape replicating a heavenly waiting room in connection with Robert Brill’s austere scenic design. The décor is an all-white barren universe with trap doors, platforms and floating panels on which so-so illustrative images by projection designer Sean Nieuwenhuis are shown as well as functional furniture tossed in. The opening image is of an old record player rising from the floor. McAnuff’s presentation is of calculated professionalism absent of spontaneity or joy. [more]

Mean Girls

April 24, 2018

Fey has made two successful changes to theatricalize her original screenplay. The story is now cast as a flashback narrated by best friends Goth Janis (Barrett Wilbert Weed) and Damian (Grey Henson), described as “almost too gay to function,” to the new freshman class as a cautionary tale as to “how far you would go to be popular and hot.” She has also updated the story to include smartphones, selfies, and reference to current events (the Russians and President Trump’s twitter account.) [more]

Carousel

April 22, 2018

If it seemed like no staging could ever top London’s National Theatre production (which was directed by Nicholas Hytner and came to Lincoln Center in the mid 1990’s), this newer version epitomizes the notorious relationship between anticipation and realization. Though the advance word during the extensive preview period was rather negative, Jack O’Brien’s "Carousel" proves up there with the best. [more]

Frozen

April 10, 2018

Disney Theatrical Productions’ long anticipated stage version of the beloved animated film "Frozen" has arrived on Broadway in a lavish and faithful version of the screenplay by Jennifer Lee who also wrote the book of the new stage show. The Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez score from the movie (including the Academy Award-winning anthem, “Let It Go”) is intact with the addition of 12 new numbers. The hard-working cast is headed by the commanding Caissie Levy as Princess Elsa and charming Patti Murin as her younger sister, Princess Anna. The real question has been how the musical would put the frozen world of the North on stage. Visually the show is attractive rather than breathtaking, with Christopher Oram’s wing and drop sets resembling those for the ballet rather than a musical. They are eye-filling, but not awe-inspiring. His costumes seem to be conventional 19th century Scandinavian garb. Ironically, the show is stolen by Greg Hildreth as Olaf, the snowman, and Andrew Pirozzi as Sven, the reindeer. [more]

Escape to Margaritaville

March 29, 2018

The ups and downs of the road to true romance provide the show with its ties to the Buffett songs.  Tully opens the show with “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Boat,” to show his romantic nature and “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” to reveal his easygoing philosophy of life.  Similarly, Rachel offers her story in “It’s My Job,” and romance blossoms when she sings “Three Chords” (the new Jimmy Buffet song) with Tully as he teaches her to play the guitar. Tammy begins to fall for Brick with their sardonic “We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About” and cements their love with “Come Monday.” Of course, there is the title song “Margaritaville,” Buffett’s biggest hit.  The songs are written in various styles ranging from pop to calypso to reggae and are meant to incite the audience to sing along which they are sometimes actually prompted to do. [more]

Rocktopia

March 28, 2018

Eleanor Roosevelt gets the biggest round of applause during the projected cultural icons slideshow as Queen’s “We Are The Champions” is histrionically performed in "Rocktopia." It’s a hokey musical extravaganza that mashes together classical, rock and opera. Singalongs, coerced clapping, dancing in the seats and standing ovations abound. The cheerfully innocuous entertainment level is comparable to that of a bland PBS pledge break concert. [more]

The Band’s Visit

January 13, 2018

Yazbek’s songs—ranging from the darkly comic “Welcome to Nowhere” (sung by the town folk) to Dina’s romantically tinged “Omar Sharif” and ending with the upbeat, danceable “Concert” played as a finale by the Band—rise magically from the dialogue, just as Patrick McCollum’s choreography emerges naturally from walking, singing and thinking. [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]

Once on This Island

December 7, 2017

Director Arden, a 2005 Juilliard graduate, has impressed with his reinvention of the 2015 Forest of Arden/ Deaf West Theatre revival of "Spring Awakening" for which he was nominated for a Tony Award. Among his clever additions to "Once on This Island" are the use of a chorus of eight to play the Storytellers who relate the tale through Ahrens’ book and lyrics, a new sonic palette for Flaherty’s calypso-tinged score with musical instruments made from found objects, and a set which puts us on the shores of the very island where the story takes place with the audience sitting on all four sides of this newly created beach. His young lovers Ti Moune and Daniel seem a good deal younger than before, making the story that much more romantic and ultimately more tragic. [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]

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]
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