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Broadway

& Juliet

November 30, 2022

The cast is a combination of New York stage favorites (Stark Sands, "Kinky Boots," and Betsy Wolfe, "Waitress," "Falsettos" and "The Mystery of Edwin Drood"), new faces (Lorna Courtney, Ben Jackson Walker, Justin David Sullivan) and older veterans (opera baritone Paolo Szot and London stage star Melanie La Barrie making her Broadway debut.) The clever book is by writer David West Read previously seen in New York with "The Performers" and "The Dream of the Burning Boy" as well as the long running television series Schitt’s Creek. The show seems to have been influenced by "Something Rotten"(parody of Elizabethan times), "Six "(its updated 16th century costumes by Paloma Young), "Head Over Heels" (reboot of a classic tale wedded to a pop-rock score) and "Moulin Rouge" (the over-the-top staging by director Luke Sheppard and choreographer Jennifer Weber) – but is actually more fun than all of those shows. At times it resembles "Saturday Night Live" skits but knows enough to keep them short and not let any of them go on too long before introducing the next complication. [more]

Kimberly Akimbo

November 23, 2022

"Kimberly Akimbo," David Lindsay-Abaire’s oddball take on the title character’s dishearteningly sad disease, began life as a play back in 2001, reaching New York via the Manhattan Theatre Club in 2003. In 2021 Lindsay-Abaire (libretto and lyrics) combined resources with the eloquent composer, Jeanine Tesori, to restyle the play as an award-winning musical produced at the Atlantic Theater Company in November 2021. This is the production that has moved to the Booth Theatre where it now resides featuring the glowing performance of Victoria Clark as the troubled title character. Jessica Stone repeats her directorial duties, managing the move to a larger venue with skill and subtlety. [more]

Almost Famous

November 15, 2022

What Crowe has done in writing his own book for the new show is recreate almost exactly every scene in the movie starting from the time when 15-year-old hero William Miller meets rock critic Lester Bangs, including the bus and plane sequences. The best lines in the stage version are recognizable from the film and nothing of equal stature has been added to the version now on stage at the Bernard J. Jacobs Theatre. The new songs credited to composer Tom Kitt with lyrics by Crowe and Kitt add little to the work as they do not forward the story. A good many of the iconic songs from the film make their appearance but as staged by director Jeremy Herrin and choreographer Sarah O’Gleby they are the least effective numbers in the show. [more]

1776

October 18, 2022

Directed by Jeffrey L. Page (who also did the simplistic choreography) and Diane Paulus, this production’s well-meaning gimmick is to have all the historic characters played by a “cast that includes multiple representations of race, ethnicity and gender [who] identify as female, transgender and nonbinary,” to quote the exacting language of the production’s press release. This casting coup works most notably as a political statement, hopefully forcing the audience take a fresh look at the original all-male contingent, however brilliant they may have been, and their flaws.  The word “woman” never appears in the Declaration of Independence (nor the Constitution) and the millions of Black slaves were quite purposely and expediently left out of the Declaration. This multi-racial cast is a not-so-subtle slap in their faces. [more]

Into the Woods

July 20, 2022

Patina Miller as The Witch in a scene from the New York City Center Encores! Production of “Into [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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

Caroline, or Change

November 9, 2021

"Caroline, or Change" is an important musical, more now than in 2004.  It should be seen.  The Roundabout production, though somewhat flawed, still communicates the complicated relationship between Blacks and Jews, clearly an issue in today’s New York City.  It is an excellently constructed show, its message surviving mostly intact. [more]

Six: The Musical

October 10, 2021

More concert than musical, the 80-minute show's libretto adds little to its cast album, with the lyrics of each queen's autobiographical song also pruning their individual histories to a point even a Wikipedia writer might consider reductive. The English nursery rhyme "Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived," which the women recite at the beginning of the sing-off, pretty much sums up writers Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow's level of interest in the lives of Catherine of Aragon (Adrianna Hicks), Anne Boleyn (Andrea Macasaet), Jane Seymour (Abby Mueller), Anna of Cleves (Brittney Mack), Katherine Howard (understudy Courtney Mack in the performance I saw), and Catherine Parr (Anna Uzele). In between the songs, the women disparage one another's suffering, all in an attempt to snipe their way to the grand prize: leader of the group and, with it, the audience's adulation. [more]

Girl from the North Country (Broadway)

March 19, 2020

Set in a dark time, "Girl from the North Country" creates a community on stage as do the best plays and musicals. Its tale of lost souls attempting to keep their heads above water is universal in both its message and its approach. Conor McPherson has never written so accessible a play before for Americans, and Bob Dylan’s songs have never sounded so poignant. Girl from the North Country is both unforgettable and not to be missed. [more]

West Side Story

March 16, 2020

Van Hove's energetic cast is too often lost among the video images which is sad because they are a wonderfully scrappy group of actor/dancer/singers who give their all.  (I’m told that this is less of an issue in the higher reaches of the theatre due to the difference in perspective.)  To be sure, there are wonderful moments where the groups move about in cityscapes that constantly change around them, but these are countered by long scenes during which the actors appear to be lilliputian figures whose singing and emoting get lost in the confusion of giant faces. [more]

Jagged Little Pill

December 15, 2019

Given the personal nature of Morissette's artistic output, it might be surprising to learn that the Broadway version of Jagged Little Pill doesn't take the easy biographical route for its book, mimicking, say, the mega-popular "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical," whose subtitle pretty much says it all. Instead, Morissette's album (Glen Ballard co-wrote the music) and a few of her other songs support an entirely original story from theater-novice Diablo Cody, whose Oscar-winning screenplay for "Juno" was funny, affecting, and decidedly superficial. This same descriptive mixed bag also holds true for Jagged Little Pill, which rises above typical jukebox musical fare, but not as much as it could have, largely because Cody is interested in hot-button issues, not characters. [more]

Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

November 24, 2019

Do we really need another Jukebox Musical on Broadway—another hum-along, sing-along, déjà vu, vaguely autobiographical songfest? When the subject is as charged up as Tina Turner, the answer is yes—a conditional yes, but….yes, especially when the title character is embodied by the sensational Adrienne Warren who gained accolades for her rendition of Tina in the original London production and is one of the main reasons Tina gained the momentum to make the jump to Broadway. [more]

The Lightning Thief – The Percy Jackson Musical on Broadway

November 2, 2019

"The Lightning Thief - The Percy Jackson Musical" settles down a bit more in the second act and becomes more engrossing but the damage has been done. The actors in the first act all seem to be racing for a train and the sound levels continue to damage many of the songs throughout the show. The show remains an excellent introduction to Greek mythology made relevant for our own time. Faithful to the source material, it may please both teens who have read the book and those who have not. The five of the seven-member cast playing 28 roles demonstrates their versatility as they change from one colorful three-dimensional character to another. If only the director and the production had trusted the original show and did not feel it necessary to make it bigger and better for Broadway, a common complaint when shows make the move from their smaller Off Broadway venues. [more]

Is This a Room

October 25, 2019

The performances as well as the dialogue are cool and unemotional as you might expect from four professionals used to doing their jobs, until about three quarters of the way through when Winner confesses to having mailed out the document that they have been asking her about after admitting that she had printed it out to read it. From then on for the last 15 minutes, the tension rises as it become obvious that Winner will not be allowed to go home. [more]

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

August 3, 2019

As the romantic, tubercular and charismatic Satine, the magnetic Ms. Olivo delivers a ferocious, sensual and grandiose performance that’s one of the most memorable recently seen on Broadway. Her sensational characterization is more Eartha Kitt than Nicole Kidman and all her own. Clad in slinky costumes, the voluptuous Olivo perpetually dazzles. Her titanic singing and dancing is matched by her intense acting which grounds the busy production with riveting focus. Her “Diamonds are Forever” is spellbinding and there’s saucy humor when it’s followed by “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” “Material Girl” and “Single Ladies.” [more]

Beetlejuice

May 22, 2019

Not all cult movies need to be made into musicals, particularly those that are dependent on special effects which the cinema does better than the stage. This is demonstrated by the new Broadway musical based on "Beetlejuice," the Tim Burton horror-comedy-fantasy. This theme park-type show is visually a spectacle with a set that does all sort of tricks and changes, but as the adage goes, you can’t go home singing the scenery. And the score by Australian composer/performer Eddie Perfect (whose only other American score has been "King Kong the Musical") is eminently forgettable. In the title role, Alex Brightman, who was charismatic in a similar role in "The School of Rock," is so over-the top that he becomes tiresome very quickly. To paraphrase Mae West, too much of a good thing is not wonderful. [more]

Tootsie

May 7, 2019

Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels still has most of his/her friends and professional acquaintances from the movie version with some new twists:  Jeff Slater, his playwright roommate (a wonderfully sardonic Andy Grotelueschen) having difficulty setting words to paper; former girlfriend, hyper-paranoid unemployed actress Sandy Lester (Sarah Stiles, doing mega-ditzy with all pistons firing); leading lady Julie Nichols (Lilli Cooper, lovely, good voice, but not as romantically vivid as she should be); clueless show director Ron Carlisle who’s not quite as sexist as in the film; and, finally, lascivious actor Max Van Horn (John Behlmann, who nearly steals the show with his brilliantly acrobatic machinations), now a dull-witted, malaprop-spouter who falls hard for the older Dorothy. [more]

Hadestown

April 29, 2019

The dazzling Broadway production of Anais Mitchell’s musical "Hadestown" proves director/developer Rachel Chavkin to be a creative genius. If you had not known it after she fitted her theater-in-the round production of "Natasha and Pierre and the Comet of 1812" into a Broadway theater, it is even more obvious now. This time she has turned her 2016 New York Theatre Workshop staging in the round into a production suitable for Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre with its proscenium stage without losing the sense that the musical takes place in many different places. Along with gripping choreography and movement from David Neumann and an onstage jazz band of six, the show simply takes your breath away, telling the joint stories of Orpheus and Eurydice, and Hades and Persephone. [more]

Be More Chill on Broadway

April 19, 2019

"Be More Chill," the dazzling and inventive musical based on the cult Young Adult novel by Ned Vizzini, has made a successful transfer to Broadway Lyceum Theater with the same cast and an expanded production team after a tryout production at Two Rivers Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey in 2014, and a YouTube soundtrack that has had over 150,000,000 hits which led to an Off Broadway production at the Pershing Square Signature Theatre Center during the summer of 2018. If memory serves after ten months, in some ways the show is strong and in other ways weaker. Bobby Frederick Tilley II’s costumes are more colorful, while Charlie Rosen’s orchestrations seem to be less so. On the plus side the performances of Will Roland as Jeremy, Jason Tam as the Squip, Tiffany Mann as Jenna and Lauren Marcus as Brooke have deepened. The show seems less comfortable at the Lyceum Theatre than it was at the Irene Diamond Stage but a good many more fans can now get to see the show at each performance. [more]

Oklahoma!

April 17, 2019

Like John Doyle’s reconceived musical revivals ("Allegro," "Passion," "Pacific Overtures," "Carmen Jones," "The Cradle Will Rock"), Fish’s production is minimalist but with a difference. While Doyle strips away the trappings both of sets and costumes and offers nothing in their place, Fish has turned his "Oklahoma!" into environmental and communal theater. When the audience enters the Circle in the Square, they are confronted with set designer Laura Jellinek’s giant dance hall with long tables around the perimeter with red crock pots on the center of each. The plywood walls of the theater are covered with rifles, the kind used by real cowboys on the range. The bluegrass band is located in a pit off center, at one end of the circular stage. Some lucky audience members sit at the first row of tables with a ringside view. Scott Zielinski’s lighting is kept on for most of the show so not only does every member of the audience see every other one but it is as though we are part of the show, not just audience members. This communal feeling is continued during the intermission when the audience is invited onto the stage to taste corn bread (that we watched Aunt Eller and Laurey preparing in the opening scene) and chili. [more]

Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations

March 30, 2019

"Ain't Too Proud to Beg," “Get Ready,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “Since I Lost My Baby,” “You're My Everything” and of course “Papa Was a Rollin' Stone” are among the show’s more than 30 numbers. Besides those by The Temptations, there’s a choice selection of songs by their contemporaries such as The Supremes. All of them are rousingly performed by the orchestra and the company under the direction of conductor Kenny Seymour. [more]

Kiss Me, Kate

March 29, 2019

While many of the greats have tackled Kate over the years ever since it premiered in 1948, O’Hara brings a subdued charm to the usually more boisterous part of Lilli, even if she is positively beaming when she first arrives on stage. The first was Patricia Morison, and the most recent on Broadway--before O’Hara--was the late Marin Mazzie, who received a Tony Award for the 1999 revival, as did the revival itself. And then there was Kathryn Grayson in the 1953 film version. [more]

The Prom

December 28, 2018

"The Prom" is giving Broadway something it’s been lacking for years, which is a high-spirited, old-fashioned musical comedy, where the cast’s energy spills out over the footlights, and is then reflected in all the smiling faces you encounter as you leave the theater. It’s the equivalent of a standing ovation that moves out into the streets. [more]

The Cher Show

December 17, 2018

Elice is no stranger to biographical musicals.  His "Jersey Boys" is still running off-Broadway.  Here he was inspired to divide the eponymous character into three personalities:  the Star (the sensational, charismatic Stephanie J. Block), the current, living legend; the Lady (Teal Wicks, fascinating in this bridge role), the mid-career Cher; and the Babe (Micaela Diamond in a gutsy, eager performance) the young Cher just discovering herself guided by her Svengali, Sonny Bono (Jarrod Spector, not a physical match to Bono, but a fine singer and actor). [more]

Ruben & Clay’s Christmas Show

December 12, 2018

Except for “Santa Baby” and “The Little Drummer Boy,” virtually every Christmas song in existence is wonderfully performed during the pleasant holiday extravaganza, Ruben & Clay's Christmas Show (aka Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show).  Even the now controversial "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is heard though revised lyrics. [more]
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