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Broadway

Amazing Grace

July 27, 2015

Famously, it was an 18th century slave trader who redeemed himself, after many gruesome twists and turns in his life, by writing this song. Told with something approaching accuracy, "Amazing Grace" nevertheless is less than compelling as both history and theater. What might have been a fascinating tale has been reduced to a melodrama complete with a villain who all but twirls his mustache, a hard-to-win love interest, an African princess who provides an excuse for some passionate dancing and many examples of physical and emotional torture of slaves, all accompanied by a series of soaring contemporary ballads. [more]

The King and I

May 12, 2015

The Lincoln Center Theater revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I is a provocative, eye-filling and poignant experience. Both younger and older theater writers and audience members can learn a good deal about how to tell a story on stage that is both emotionally moving and makes you care about the characters from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s expert storytelling. "The King and I" will send you out of the theater feeling that you have had a fulfillingly memorable experience filled with unforgettable songs, dances and theatrical moments. [more]

Something Rotten!

May 4, 2015

"Something Rotten!" isn’t just for insiders, though. Its pleasures are multiple: a divinely hyper cast led by Mr. d’Arcy James, John Cariani (sweet and lovable as Nick Bottom’s feckless younger brother, Nigel) and Christian Borle (manically over the top as a rock star Shakespeare); a fabulously tongue-in-cheek Tudor-ish set and costumes (Scott Pask and Gregg Barnes); a bouncy, funny score (Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick); and the wittiest, non-stop choreography on Broadway (Casey Nicholaw who also directed). Mr. Nicholaw’s pacing is breathtaking. It’s almost too exhausting to keep up with the unstoppable cast. [more]

It Shoulda Been You

May 3, 2015

"It Shoulda Been You" is the new musical by Brian Hargrove (book and lyrics) and Barbara Anselmi (music) and marks the Broadway directing debut of Broadway veteran David Hyde Pierce. The theme is a wedding. Nothing new about that. The two families are of two religions. Nothing new about that, either. What sets "Shoulda" apart are its hilariously surprising twists and the perfectly hewn comic turns by a cast headed by three brilliant ladies: Lisa Howard, Tyne Daly and Harriet Harris, each adroit comic actors. [more]

Finding Neverland

May 3, 2015

Directed by the usually innovative Diane Paulus (whose credits include the critically acclaimed "Hair," "Porgy and Bess," "Pippin"), "Finding Neverland" has been created by the numbers and its staging suggests a great many earlier musicals. The score by Gary Barlow & Eliot Kennedy, long associated with the UK band, Take That, and writing their first musical, is filled with serviceable and prosaic ballads and anthems (with many false rhymes) to pleasant melodies but none which really forward the story. With titles like “Believe” and “Neverland,” they often have an overly familiar feeling. While Finding Neverland steals shamelessly from the 1954 Jule Styne-Comden & Green musicalization of Barrie’s play"Peter Pan," it never comes close to the charm of that earlier musical. [more]

Fun Home

May 3, 2015

Inside this less-than-"Fun Home" of deception and repression is an exceedingly endearing and relatable cast of characters. Sydney Lucas, Emily Skeggs, and Beth Malone star as Small, Middle, and Adult Alisons, respectively; while their individual mannerisms and inflections may not depict a consistent character, their passionate performances work well enough together to amount to a moving “portrait of the cartoonist as a young woman” (or what have you). Stage and screen veteran Judy Kuhn likewise shines—or, more appropriately, fades—as the Alisons’ defeated mother Helen. As her former Disney princess voice glides across a broken ballad, Kuhn shows the anguish of a wife with nothing left to sing about. Perhaps most notably, Michael Cerveris’ heartbreaking portrait of Bruce is both authoritative and impotent, loveable and despicable. [more]

Doctor Zhivago

April 27, 2015

Where is John Doyle when we really need him to whip new life into a musical? [Answer: he’s directing another Broadway musical, "The Visit."] There’s a moving chamber musical hidden amidst all the incessantly dashing chorus kids, shifting scenery, smoke effects, loud explosions and eerily surreal video projections that are the raison d’être of this production from the Nobel Prize winning novel by Boris Pasternak. This more-is-more approach to the new musical "Doctor Zhivago"—written by Michael Weller (libretto), Michael Korie & Amy Powers (lyrics) and Lucy Simon (music), choreographed by Kelly Devine and directed by Des McAnuff—dulls any emotional impact the story and the characters might have evoked. [more]

The Visit

April 24, 2015

The illustrious Chita Rivera appears in an elegant floor length white dress and bedecked with jewels. The grande dame’s presence electrifies the audience. Unfortunately, with little to work with, she postures and delivers McNally’s lines the best she can. Along with co-star Roger Rees as Anton Schell, her lover from the old days, she breathes some life into the song, “You, You, You.” When she dances, the ball is back in her court. There is a magnificent moment when she dances with her younger self (Michelle Veintimilla). Sensitively choreographed by Daniele, they do a sweet dream-like duet with grace and passion, the highlight of the evening. [more]

Gigi the Musical

April 21, 2015

Though this sophisticated story was intended for equally sophisticated adults as part of the mores and manners of a society and culture gone with the wind, the stylish and colorful Broadway revival has solved all these problems with Heidi ("Call the Midwife," "Cranford," "Upstairs Downstairs") Thomas’ new adaptation of the Alan Jay Lerner book and the casting of Disney heroine Vanessa Hudgens in the title role. Gigi is now over 18 and Gaston is in his 20’s, which puts a decidedly different complexion on things. “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” is now sung by Gigi’s grandmother Mamita and her Aunt Alicia. All decidedly right and proper and the word courtesan (which is what this is about) is never once mentioned. Sex is never even an issue. Here love is simply a game. So what are we left with? [more]

An American in Paris

April 19, 2015

The director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon has re-envisioned this icon with a panache that borders on the genius, fulfilling the promise he showed with his extraordinary choreography for the 2002 "Sweet Smell of Success." This time around, from the windswept opening sequence, with its thumbnail sketch of W.W. II history to the breathlessly simple fade-out, it was clear that Wheeldon was in total command of his material, illuminating all of "An American in Paris"’ emotional twists and turns. [more]

On the Twentieth Century

April 3, 2015

The best revival of the season to date, Roundabout’s On the Twentieth Century is as streamlined and fast-paced as the actual train and twice as much fun. For her soon to be legendary performance, Chenoweth should assuredly win her first and long-delayed Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Don’t miss this show. It will be one for the record books. [more]

Hamilton

March 6, 2015

Alexander Hamilton may have been the unsung hero among the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution but a new musical will change all that. "Hamilton," now at the Public Theater, blows the dust off history and turns his story into the most exciting stage show in town. Inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography, triple-threat creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer, librettist and star of the show playing the title role, has had the terrific idea to write Hamilton as a through-composed hip-hop, r & b, rap musical which gives the 200-year-old story a tremendous shot of adrenalin. [more]

Side Show

November 27, 2014

There are a lot of words being wasted on what this show is not. This argument occurs because book writer and lyricist Bill Russell and composer Henry Krieger brought it to Broadway in 1997 without figuring out what story it was trying to tell. This new Side Show is a very substantial rewrite. It's no longer sung-through, it has additional material by director Bill Condon, as well as lots of new songs. [more]

On the Town

November 13, 2014

This On the Town, with 29 musicians and 31 actors, begins with a huge American flag and the singing of the national anthem, just as would have happened every night of the original run back in the 1940's during World War II. The show begins and ends at 6 A.M. at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Three sailors, Gabey (played by Tony Yazbeck for the third time), Ozzie and Chip have 24 hours shore leave to see all of the Big Apple before shipping out to Europe. Each wants to see the sights, both cultural and female. [more]

The Last Ship

November 4, 2014

The problem with the show is the book by first time librettist John Logan (Red, Never the Sinner) and Brian Yorkey (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for the musical Next to Normal) which leaves plot points undeveloped, characters on the one dimensional level and an ending which leaves much unresolved. What the show is best at is creating a sense of community among the men who work in the shipyards and the women in their lives who back them up. The choreographed movement by Steven Hoggett ("Once," "Rocky" and "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") has knit the large cast of 30 into a cohesive whole with its muscular routines. [more]

Rock of Ages

September 28, 2014

In a large, energetic cast, Amy Spanger, Mitchell Jarvis and Wesley Taylor stand out. I have to confess never to have heard a louder finale. No wonder there's a surge in hot looking, fashionable hearing aids for the Boomer set. They've earned them. [more]

Holler If Ya Hear Me

June 30, 2014

The original book by August Wilson protégé and collaborator Todd Kreidler is in the fiery style of his mentor. It's also in the old tradition of social problem plays and films. In addition, there are noticeable similarities to West Side Story. Though the plot and characters often seem familiar, Mr. Kreidler has very successfully crafted a framework that everyone else involved builds upon, resulting in a bold and novel take on the subject. [more]

Cabaret

May 4, 2014

A huge, new production of a huge, ever now hit, Alan Cumming, Michelle Williams, Linda Emond and Danny Burstein shine. [more]

Violet

May 2, 2014

An interesting and touching early musical from the composer of "Shrek," "Caroline, or Change," and "Fun Home." It may be in keeping with the notional scar, but sometimes "minimalist" fades into "generic." An inherent problem with the show, it's possible that even a small Broadway house like this one (740 seats) will always be too big. The climactic sequence, following Violet's discouraging experience in Tulsa, takes place mostly in Violet's head and as such is almost unstagable, and in any case hard to understand. Last and most problematic is that these soldiers react relatively casually to Violet's allegedly repellent deformity. [more]

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

April 27, 2014

Complementing the stagecraft and performances is the actual dynamic band. Consisting of music director Justin Craig on guitar and keyboards, Matt Duncan on bass, Tim Mislock on guitar, and Peter Yanowitz on drums, they sound and look like the real thing. Adding another layer of authentic imagery are Arianne Phillips' witty costumes and Mike Potter's detailed wigs and make-up design. [more]

Bullets Over Broadway

April 1, 2014

Author and director have put together a show which does not have a wink and a nod in it. Only the broadest of reactions will do. Which can sometimes be funny. If you know how to do it. Marin Mazzie does and is a knockout. Zach Braff does not and is not a knockout. And everybody else is somewhere in between. Except for one puzzlement: Karen Ziemba, a marvelous performer, one of the nine stars, what is she doing in this show? Her role makes no sense. Is that an inside joke? Nobody, but nobody gets it. Everybody is overdoing so much – and some of them are famous for overdoing – that it seems as if Susan Stroman's directing skills are playing very second fiddle to her choreographic skills. [more]

If/Then

March 29, 2014

Of course, it has to happen with the music and with dancing, with costumes, with sets – ye gods. Director Michael Greif has the great boon of set designer Mark Wendland's fresh way of presenting the entire premise instantly. He gives us the glittering ability of seeing what is going on two ways at once, with mirrors, very bright, very brainy. But we are not thus twice as much pulled into events so much as setting one view against another, a perfect visual metaphor fitting with the creators, but not with us, the audience. We are happily tasking outside, we don't come in until someone with heart pulls us in. [more]

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

December 29, 2013

Alexander Dodge's Edwardian sets which appear inside a reproduction of Pollock's Toy Theater are always delightful. Linda Cho has created an enchanting collection of costumes from those for all of Mays' transformations into the D'Ysquiths to the women's lovely and seductive gowns. The amusing projection design is the work of Aaron Rhyne. Jonathan Tunick's melodic orchestrations are always faithful to its Edwardian period and its music hall roots. Credit director Tresnjak, artistic director of Hartford Stage, now making his Broadway debut, with keeping this confection airborne throughout the evening, including when stretching credulity to the limit. [more]

Big Fish

October 29, 2013

everybody gives a standing ovation to improbably named Norbert Leo Butz, its star of stars. Yes, super director/choreographer Susan Stroman has pulled and woven and wreaked and hammered the story of the life and death of ordinary extraordinary Edward Bloom, traveling salesman, tale spinner, fabulist who fills the lives of everyone he meets with cockeyed wonders. [more]

First Date

August 29, 2013

You also recognize every inch of the rites, the mind revealing alter-egos, and alter-alter egos and whippy costume changes, the gropes, the innuendos. You laugh, you groan. You know the next bit is going to get a laugh, too, what else? Yes, that is the present status of the First Date. Cliché. Was it yours? Is that why you're laughing? Is that who we are today? Mine wasn't. Not in the 8th grade. She was so blonde! So what if she as a little cross-eyed. It was unsettling and alluring. [more]

Pippin

May 29, 2013

yes I was amused and/or captivated or both with the costumes of Dominique Lemieux, and yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the players, everyone, not just the principals, Terence Mann, Stephanie Pope (subbing for Leading Player Patina Miller), Matthew James Thomas, Charlotte d'Amboise, Rachel Bay Jones and that Andrea Martin but so many more because they went beyond antics. They reached us, again and again. The whole, dizzying, towering, funny, moving, exercise becomes a deep inside savoring for again and again. [more]

Matilda The Musical

April 29, 2013

Matilda is the story of a very bright, five year old girl who takes refuge in reading books from the library at a very early age. She gets through several books a week and entertains the librarian, Mrs. Phelps, with wonderful tales. Unwanted by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood, and older brother Michael, Matilda is sent to a school run by a scary headmistress Miss Trunchbull who is unusually cruel to children and enforces her own rules, sometimes in a sadistic manner. [more]

Jekyll & Hyde

April 29, 2013

Director/choreographer Jeff Calhoun does not seem to have trusted the material or wanted this production to be as different as possible from the original Broadway staging. While much of this Jekyll & Hyde is handled as caricature, the sets by Tobin Ost in garish red and black with their walls at steep angles resemble nothing so much as a color version of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, without the expressionist weight of that story. [more]

Motown: The musical

April 18, 2013

In this huge and loving tribute to himself, his music, his stars, Berry Gordy is producing and writing an overstuffed, overcharged, oversized musical in thirty-six settings, fifty-eight songs, twenty-two musicians, forty-one performers, to an additional complement of twenty-nine production entities, and three producers, one of which, of course, is Berry Gordy. [more]

Bye Bye Birdie

April 1, 2009

Longbottom's choreography and musical staging is busy, busy, busy, but not joyful or inspired. As conducted by David Holcenberg, Strouse's bouncy score is played at too slow a pace, even with orchestrations by the legendary Jonathan Tunick. The comedy is played too broadly, and the love scenes are passionless. [more]

(title of show)

April 1, 2009

Hunter's book and Jeff's music and lyrics have been winningly directed and choreographed by the remarkable Michael Berresse, taking Hunter and Susan and Jeff and Heidi everywhere they wanted to go. The four of them are a cornucopia of theatrical gifts gilded with the glorious hopes of adolescence still completely retained by their older, if not wiser, selves. The juxtaposition is at once deeply touching and laughingly joyful. [more]

Billy Elliot

November 25, 2008

Elton John proved once again (Lion King, Aida,) that he is great at adapting his songwriting to a dramatic script. “I find it easier writing for a story line than just individual songs” and he succeeds admirably in a wide variety of numbers from the touching “Dear Billy” a heartwrencher between Billy and his Dead mother, “Solidarity” the vociferously defiant anthem of the striking workers, the tender lilting “We’d Go Dancing” as Grandma and the men recreate the lovely waltz of old happier time, “Express Yourself” and” Born to Boogie”, exuberant razz ma tazz Broadway dance numbers. [more]

Company

December 28, 2006

Raul Esparza, the dynamic young actor who made great impressions in such not so great shows as Taboo and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang , plays Robert, whose tainted attitudes about attachment and commitment to women, and specifically to his three concurrent girl friends, appear the direct result of observing his friends' disintegrating relationships. Esparza delivers the insecurities of his character with a brio and confidence that also drives his two big songs "Marry Me a Little" (not in the original show, but restored here as it was in the earlier revival) and "Being Alive." Pivotal as he is, Robert often stands at the outside of his friends' lives as they are revealed in a series of skittish skits. [more]
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