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Broadway

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]

King Kong

November 20, 2018

Designed by Johnny Tilders, the puppet Kong is phenomenal, a 20-foot tall, 2,000 pound marionette operated by the ten-person King’s Company, members of the cast assigned to operating the arms, legs and body of Kong, with the facial expressions controlled by exacting machinery that endows this artificial creation with real emotions.  The roaring and other vocalizations are amplifications of the offstage voice of Jon Hoche.  The results are not just fascinating, but eminently entertaining and even moving. [more]

Pretty Woman: The Musical

August 26, 2018

With Tony nominations for "Rocky," "On the Twentieth Century" and "Groundhog Day," 44-year-old Andy Karl’s charisma and considerable talents have been well demonstrated. In "Pretty Woman: The Musical" as the aloof Edward, Mr. Karl exhibits what magnetism he can in this detached role while being saddled with some dreary songs. Karl and Ms. Banks admirably soldier on together in a losing battle. [more]

Gettin’ the Band Back Together

August 20, 2018

If the show plays like it was written by a committee, in fact, it has been. The book is by producer/ writer Ken Davenport and The Grundleshotz who turn out to be a group of performers and writers who originally workshopped the show in a series of improvised rehearsals. For the record, they are Sebastian Arcelus, Fred Berman, Michael Hirstreet, Jenna Coker Jones, Craig Jorczak, Nathan Kaufman, Emily McNamara, Jennifer Miller, Bhavesh Patel, Sarah Saltzberg (who is credited with additional material), Michael Tester, as well as Jay Kaitz who plays the second male lead in the show, Bart Vickers as though he were auditioning for Dewey, the laid-back music teacher in "School of Rock." [more]

Head Over Heels

August 9, 2018

Under Michael Mayer’s fast-paced direction, "Head Over Heels" starts badly and busily but eventually slows down to a delightful Elizabethan parody on love and gender. While not all of The Go-Go’s songs are suitable for the storyline and the period, enough of them fit perfectly to make this a superior light entertainment. The cast is first rate and may make stars of the ingenious Andrew Durand and the classy and stylish Peppermint. Aside from introducing The Go-Go’s song catalog to Broadway, "Head Over Heels" covers a great many firsts of all kinds. [more]

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]
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