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Broadway

Spring Awakening

December 28, 2006

Although its language is no rougher than what you'll hear in Rent or Avenue Q, Spring Awakening may be a tougher journey, especially for young teens. This sometimes downbeat adaptation of a controversial work incorporates a number of uncomfortable topics, including incest, masturbation, teen suicide and abortion. Warnings aside, let's hope that older teens (who already make up much of the audience), along with Generations X and Y will embrace Spring Awakening the way they did Rent ten years ago. [more]

The Apple Tree

November 28, 2006

The best moment finds Chenoweth putting a torrid spin on "I've Got What You Want," and yet not quite able to master the cracking of a whip. It's pure silliness. In Passionella …, Chenoweth plays Ella, a lonely sooty chimney sweep, who is magically transformed by her fairy godfather (Kudisch, who also serves as the story' s narrator), into a blonde sex pot of a movie star. She is destined to find true love, however, with a rock singer (James). Chenoweth's talent for breaking through the sound barrier with her high notes is the highlight of this skit. Fans of Chenoweth will be delighted; others will find the triptych trying. [more]

Mary Poppins

September 28, 2006

The musical has inspired many to learn how to sing. The magic comes from Bob Crowley's breathtaking sets and costumes aided by David Benken's technical direction: Mary Poppins flies in and out on her umbrella, people pop out of chimneys, toys become human, birds fly around the theater, and statues break their poses and move. The opening scrim is a blue pen and ink illustration which suggests the world of the P.L. Travers' stories on the printed page. The Banks' house at 17 Cherry Tree Lane, London, is a giant Victorian doll house come to life. Crowley uses brilliant colors in both his costumes and the fantasy sequences to replace the animation that made the Walt Disney film so attractive. [more]

70, Girls, 70

March 28, 2006

Seen today, 70, Girls, 70 is a weak show with a few strong numbers and a touching message about America's indifferent treatment of its elders. Within the show's limitations, Director/Choreographer Kathleen Marshall did her best to spin straw into gold, as did the outstanding Encores! Orchestra led by musical director Paul Gemignani. [more]

The Threepenny Opera

March 5, 2006

The best way to imagine what has happened to the beggars, the bourgeoisie, the pimps and whores, and the sordid denizens of the underworld in this operatic rant on the evils of capitalism is to think of a Cirque du Soleil troupe on Valium and under neon (what was lighting designer Jason Lyons thinking?). Worst of all, it is plodding and dull and an eyesore thanks to Isaac Mizrahi's Halloween-on-Fire-Island costuming. [more]

The Woman in White

December 28, 2005

As an easy-reader version of Wilkie Collins's pot-boiling gothic Victorian mystery romance, it plays out like a cross between a wide-screen 3-D film, a pop-up styled Classics Illustrated Comic Book and a Zoetrope peep show. In keeping with his fearlessly saccharine musical style, and his almost recklessly familiar brand of melodic recycling, Lord Webber has, nevertheless, commendably concocted a thoroughly enjoyable piece of era-evoking clap trap. [more]

The Light in the Piazza

November 28, 2005

The music by Adam Guettel, a grandson of Richard Rogers, is sumptuous, tending toward operatic and performed by a full orchestra with a cello, harp, guitar and mandolin adding richness and flavor. It is lovely to listen to, but contributes little in the way of strong dramatic impact. His lyrics for the most part are less successful, but he is clearly a gifted composer. I suspect there are more memorable scores in his future and his work here may even be the finest this season. [more]

Sweet Charity

November 28, 2005

Christina Applegate is surrounded by an excellent team. Every design aspect of the show while maybe not as imaginative as the original, nonetheless, gleams and the supporting players are polished as well. Dennis O'Hare as the neurotic Oscar is a standout and the scene when the two are trapped in the elevator is one of the evening's highlights. He is absolutely hysterical demonstrating a duality of character and aliveness that much of the evening lacks. [more]

Souvenir

November 28, 2005

Using Foster Jenkins' legacy as a jumping off point, the piece, subtitled a Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins tells this brave character's story through the eyes of Cosme McMoon (Donald Corren), a frustrated composer who spent many years as her competent, long-suffering accompanist. Souvenir could also be subtitled, "A memory play." This two-character study opens in 1964, with McMoon performing in a Greenwich Village piano bar, on the anniversary of Jenkins' death 20 years before. Unable to concentrate on the keyboard, McMoon chats with his audience, digressing into memories of his collaboration with the infamous, improbable soprano. [more]

Sweeney Todd

November 28, 2005

Doyle's innovative approach dispenses with set changes while placing the action in a black and white arena that suggests a dreary psychiatric ward. The story begins with a terrified young man in a straitjacket surrounded by people in white robes. As he sings the musical's opening words "Attend the tale of Sweeny Todd," we are summoned into his disturbing world. There is no turning back. The effect was as if someone had snapped a whip and commanded our attention. [more]

Jersey Boys

November 28, 2005

Jersey Boys is an adroitly entertaining evening that pulsates with energy, drama, and rock and roll standards. We didn't want it to end. After the final curtain call, the entire cast obliged by performing a reprise of the opening song and sending us out of the theatre singing, "Oh What a Night." [more]

All Shook Up

October 28, 2005

Cheyenne Jackson as Chad is of course the star and delivers a star turn. Mr. Jackson is a seductive charmer with a wonderfully rich voice, who moves beautifully and is funny as well. He is not only a gorgeous hunk with enormous appeal, but he has a warm magnetic presence that grows on you. He receives a tremendous assist from the entire cast of energetic performers, who sing marvelously and perform their respective songs with committed style and enthusiasm. [more]

Putnam County 20th Annual Spelling Bee

September 28, 2005

This musical follows the hopes, dreams and disappointments of six children (played by adults) competing in their county spelling bee, with the winner going to the Nationals. Also, competing in the contest are four pre-selected audience members. This type of gimmick usually comes off as forced, but with the help of the cast and the accommodating script, this venture into audience participation is one of the true charms of the show. [more]

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

April 28, 2005

Yes, folks, prepare yourselves - The Car simply takes your breath away. And as you're sitting there gasping at the marvel of it all, you keep reminding yourself of your age. Because by the time Chitty makes her celebrated appearance, you have magically become eight years old again. [more]

Little Women

February 28, 2005

What power the show has rests on the shoulders of Sutton Foster, the engaging performer and Tony winning star of "Thoroughly Modern Millie." Foster gives an amusing performance, marked by her tomboyish striding about in long skirts. Her robust body language and broad facial expressions get the laughs they deserve and are apparently meant to be slightly at odds with the quaintness of the rest of the musical. [more]

Good Vibrations

December 28, 2004

In the first line of the show, actor David Larsen addresses the audience with the following: "Once upon a time, there was a land called California." A moment later, the electric guitar play strikes up his strings, and the cast breaks out into "Fun, Fun, Fun," the first Beach Boys standard of the evening. This number begins a process that will be repeated throughout the show, one where a song's lyrics will have little or nothing to do with the play's characters. For in terms of "Fun, Fun, Fun," one cannot help but wonder – who is this girl that they are singing about? Where's the T-Bird? Where's her father? Are they somewhere in another musical? [more]

Caroline, or Change

December 10, 2004

There is a lot of anger vented through music in "Caroline, or Change,"; the nearly sung-through musical by Tony Award-winner Tony Kushner (book and lyrics) and Jeanine Tesori (music). Operatic in its aspirations and dramatic in its presentation, this unusual musical made enough friends and supporters during its successful run earlier this season Off-Broadway to justify a move to Broadway. The production fits as snugly into the Eugene O'Neill Theater as it did at the Public Theater. [more]

Pacific Overtures

December 1, 2004

Weidman's book is especially clever in its anecdotal cohesiveness, and with additional material credited to Hugh Wheeler, will probably be thought of as more vindicated than it was initially. Yet one wonders if the sadness we feel as we watch the Japanese lose their will to resist American determination is actually compounded by the new ending that brings Japan into the modern age and includes an image of the bombing of Hiroshima. [more]

Dracula The Musical

September 28, 2004

o, here is the plot, for those unfamiliar with the Dracula saga: In Transylvania, Count Dracula (Tom Hewitt) sucks the blood of young Jonathan Harker and sets his fangs on the innocent, English girl Mina Murray (Melissa Errico), Harker's fiancé, who we are told is of "good blood." And about twenty minutes into the show, the Count is young and powerful again, and, set to a keyboard synthesizer-influenced band, he breaks into the pop cry "Fresh Blood." [more]

Little Shop of Horrors

November 28, 2003

Foster, recently of "Urinetown," is terrific as the Faustian nebbish who sells his soul to win the girl he loves but, mostly, for riches. Butler holds her own and more (for those who cherish the stage and screen performance of Ellen Greene), as Audrey. Bartlett zeros in on Mushnik (shades of Zero Mostel in his performance) until the plant zeros in on him. DeQuina Moore, Trisha Jeffrey, and Carla J. Hargrove, are delicious as the perky girl-group and urchins that sing those tight vocal arrangements by Robert Billig and cavort to Kathleen Marshall's delightful choreography. Bon appetit! [more]

The Boy From Oz

October 29, 2003

But never fear, the show, as irrepressible as Allen himself, delivers an eleventh hour number, and the song everyone is waiting for, "I Go To Rio", borrows every show biz cliché, a staircase that lights up, chorus girls in huge headdresses, come down, and Jackman, heretofore often tethered to a piano, finally explodes onstage like an exultant puppy let off the leash in this bonanza of a finale. Truly irresistible! [more]

Nine

September 28, 2003

or all the handsome production values contributed by Scott Pask's handsome silvery unit setting and Vicki Mortimer's ravishing and revealing costumes, it is the presence and performance of Antonio Banderas, in the role of director Guido Contini (originated by the late Raul Julia), that pilots the action to perfection. Banderas, who is making his Broadway debut, proves an excellent choice both dramatically and vocally. That the Spanish-born actor was a member of the National Theater of Spain before he was discovered by Hollywood, accounts for his accomplished stage presence and the authority that he brings to both his singing and his character. [more]

The Look of Love

September 20, 2003

When polished and classy performers such as Broadway veteran Liz Callaway ("Merrily We Roll Along," "Baby," "Miss Saigon") and Capathia Jenkins ("Civil War"), as a Dionne Warwick substitute, attempt to provide some inner life to relatively uncomplicated songs, the effect is still-born. When the gentle and folksy "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" is sung in Spanish by Kevin Ceballo and danced in orgiastic spasms by Shannon Lewis, you'll see how desperate staging can get. [more]

Big River

September 6, 2003

Tyrone Giordano plays Huck with an unforced naturalism that is matched by the terrific Daniel Jenkins (he played Huck on Broadway in 1985) who gives Huck his voice. The multi-talented (check out the banjo) Jenkins also plays Twain as a narrator on the sidelines. Michael McElroy plays and sings the role of Jim the runaway slave. His striking good looks, stature and magnificent baritone voice add considerable dramatic weight to the production. [more]

Gypsy

March 2, 2003

Within seconds after musical director Marvin Laird picks up his baton, you will know why composer Jule Styne's slam-bang overture to "Gypsy" is considered by many the greatest and the most invigorating overture ever written for an American musical (okay, so you prefer Leonard Bernstein's more highfalutin "Candide"). Know this, however, that those who do go to this "Gypsy," will hear, probably for the very last time, the sound of 24 musicians in the pit (thanks to the concessions made during the recent strike). That alone is worth the price of admission. [more]
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