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Off-Broadway

Inner Voices

October 17, 2016

Paulette Haupt, producing artistic director of Premieres, should be very proud of herself. Her "Inner Voices" program at the TBG Theatre managed to shock, move and entertain. The three short one-act musical monologues, each with a distinctive voice and each performed by an expert singer/actor were sweetly bizarre ("Just One 'Q' "), shattering ("The Pen") and heartwarming ("The Booty Call"). [more]

90210! The Musical!

October 6, 2016

At certain points during "90210! The Musical!," references are made pertaining to actors or other people who were involved in the original TV series, and none is more self-referential or satirical than Caleb Dehne’s gratifyingly over-the-top portrayal of actress and Beverly Hills darling Tori Spelling. Dressed in drag and sporting a disheveled blonde wig and smeared lipstick, Dehne’s mannerisms are surprisingly spot-on, and his speech patterns are hilariously over-exaggerated. [more]

Marie and Rosetta

September 30, 2016

The two women size each other up, first by Sister Rosetta singing such gospel numbers as “This Train,” “Rock Me” and “Sit Down,” while Marie demonstrates her style with “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.” Then they move into a series of dynamic duets, each one more robust and rousing then the last. Eventually they sing a few of the pop songs that Sister Rosetta has made famous: “I Want a Tall Skinny Papa” and “Four or Five Times.” A sleight of hand is their writing “Up Above My Head” together while we watch and listen to the song unfold as if for the first time. Lewis brings her powerful, full-bodied voice to her songs, while Jones has a smaller, mellower sound (the real life Knight was a contralto). However, when they join together in song, the results are glorious, and each duet will make you hungry for the next one. [more]

The Black Crook

September 25, 2016

The creators of this version combined songs from the period—several probably used in the original production—with a pared-down version of the second-rate melodrama written with by Charles Barras (portrayed as always rattled and put upon by Steven Rattazzi), who tells his side of the story while also playing the romantic lead, Roldolphe, in the actual "Black Crook." [more]

Fiorello!

September 24, 2016

Under Bob Moss’ vigorous and energetic direction, the cast of 20 young actors grab hold of the show and never let up for a moment playing a multitude of colorful New York types with energy and verve. The musical numbers are excitingly staged with excellent period choreography by Michael Callahan. In the title role, Austin Scott Lombardi, making his Off Broadway debut, is a forceful and charismatic presence as the lawyer who is always on the right side of every issue and never takes no for an answer. As his love interest Thea, the beautiful Italian American from Trieste, Rebecca Brudner is a charming presence, impressively maintaining her Italian accent even during her musical numbers. Katie Birenboim obtains our sympathy as Fiorello’s long-suffering secretary with her wry view of the world. Chelsea Cree Groen and Dan Cassin are an engaging if unlikely romantic couple as the savvy sweatshop seamstress and the dim-witted cop who arrests her best friend for picketing. [more]

Twelfth Night (Public Works)

September 5, 2016

Taub’s eclectic score to original lyrics includes jazz, rhythm and blues, pop, Broadway and ragtime. Among Kwei-Armah’s ingenious touches were his use of a series of community cameo groups play back up for individual songs: the Jazz Procession for Countess Olivia’s father was played by the spirited Jambalaya Brass Band. Viola’s inner monologue was interpreted expressively in pantomime by New York Deaf Theatre. Malvolio’s solo Can-Can was performed by the nine energetic and enthusiastic dancers of The Love Show. The duel provoked by Sir Toby was backed up by the thrilling drummers of COBU while his duel masters were portrayed by the electrifying Ziranmen Kungfu Wushu Training Center. Throughout the evening, the Illyriettes made up of six ladies dressed identically in purple sequined sheaths played back up group for various singers and musical numbers. [more]

The Good Earth

August 30, 2016

Gwenllian Higginson and Michael Humphrey in a scene from “The Good Earth” (Photo credit: Tom [more]

Crashlight

August 28, 2016

"Crashlight" is a musical that is so inept that the recurring age-old mental question while watching it is, “What were they thinking?” The "King Lear"-style eye gouging sequence in the second act pushes it into the realm of the totally ludicrous. [more]

Mother Emanuel (2016 Fringe Encore Series)

August 23, 2016

The dynamic cast is made up of Marquis Gibson, Lauren Shaye, Nicole Stacie and Christian Lee Branch. These four very talented performers all portray numerous characters during this 75-minute work. President Barack Obama is depicted as well. [more]

Takarazuka in “Chicago”

July 30, 2016

This Japanese version lacks the passion and darkness necessary to make this morality tale pop. The two leading ladies, Wataru Kozuki as Velma and Hikaru Asami as Roxie looked too wide-eyed and innocent to portray such trampy characters, but they moved and sang well. Keaki Mori as Matron “Mama” Morton, in her high, curly wig, totally missed the seamier sexual ambiguity of the character while Chihiro Isono as the put-upon Amos was a tad too low key. Asato Shizuki was slick, but not seamy or sexually provocative as the lawyer, Billy Flynn. [more]

Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

July 30, 2016

The charming and charismatic Broadway leading man Santino Fontana performs the role of Elliot Rosewater with as much commitment as if he were playing J. Pierrepont Finch. Mr. Fontana’s performance is the magnetic anchor of the show. Kilgore Trout is a loony science fiction author of 117 novels and over 2000 short stories and is a recurring character in Vonnegut’s novels. Here he appears briefly near the end of the show wearing a hunting cap and rising from a wheelchair. That he is played by the legendary 85-year-old James Earl Jones with his thundering voice, joyous presence and sly comic timing is wonderfully jolting. Mr. Jones also is the narrator. [more]

Pillars of New York

July 15, 2016

The score that Mr. Antin composed and wrote the lyrics for is a serviceable collection of songs that could possibly have succeeded in a show about the conflicts among married couples. Wedged into a dramatization of a horrendous historical event, they’re hollow and rarely achieve other then a filler quality. [more]

Liberty: A Monumental New Musical

July 13, 2016

The production team uses most of the same people who were involved with the show’s 2014 run at Theater 80 St. Marks as well as four of the eight actors. Directing again, Evan Pappas keeps the show moving along, but some of the characterizations are allowed to descend into caricature and the waiting game for the money to be raised becomes a bit wearisome. Shapiro, now two years older, is charming as Liberty and has a sweet voice but it fails to project in this venue. Emma Rosenthal is impassioned as Emma Lazarus, caught between her liberal beliefs and her family’s conservative leanings. [more]

Katdashians! Break the Musical!

July 12, 2016

Under John Duff’s direction, this energetic group of performers get an A+ for accurately portraying their chosen characters. As KimKat, Carmen Mendoza is as self-centered as can be and let her queen status be known with “The Selfie Song,” while Elliott Brooks’ KhloeKat takes on the role of the black sheep of the family with her hysterical, crude and unfiltered persona shining through. As KrisKat, Bailey Nolan makes her mark as the creator of the litter known from the start and is just as domineering and commanding as you’d expect. Peter Smith, who is a supporting player in the Kardashians’ show, takes on the role of Bruce Jenner/Catlyn and tries to find his place among divas – getting his moment with the catchy, “Bruce Jenner (He's a Man's Man).” [more]

Runaways

July 12, 2016

The most remarkable thing about the Encores! Off-Center revival of the late Elizabeth Swados’ 1978 musical "Runaways" is that it is as fresh as when it was written almost four decades ago. The concert staging is perfect for this revue like show which deals with youthful alienation and abuse, making it feel extremely contemporary. Credit director Sam Pinkleton and a cast of 25 high-powered multi-racial and multi-ethnic performers, mostly New York City school children from 12 – 19. Among the performers are a deaf actor working in sign language (Ren), two actors who perform in Spanish (Claudia Ramirez and Joshua DeJesus), and a transgendered actress (MJ Rodriguez). It would not be hyperbole to say that among this cast are the stars of tomorrow. [more]

The Lost Ones: A New Musical

July 12, 2016

Karen Carpenter singing her song, We Have Only Just Begun (to live), sitting on a stool in the afterlife takes the meaning of ill-fated to a whole new level. However, Karen Carpenter, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain singing Karen and Richard Carpenter’s number one hit, Top of the World, brought the house down. The staging of whom sang what verse and when was priceless. And, Greg Schlotthauer’s musical direction is inspired. [more]

HYPERBOLIC! (The Last Spectacle)

July 10, 2016

It is August 11, 2033, and there’s a wild party happening because the world is ending. That’s the setup of the exuberant one-hour multimedia fantasia "HYPERBOLIC! (The Last Spectacle)." This often very funny and eerie Downtown mash up of the styles of Bob Fosse and Baz Luhrmann is crossed with dashes of enigmatic Sci-Fi and drag queen sensibilities. [more]

Here I Sit, Brokenhearted

July 7, 2016

Bathroom humor is an art of its own kind, but Seth Panitch’s musical parody "Here I Sit, Brokenhearted: A Bathroom Odyssey" takes this particular blend of humor and exploits it entirely. The moment the stage lights rise to full, marking the beginning of the production, a monstrous flush of a toilet rings through the audience, and that’s about as sophisticated a moment as any to be expected from the rest of the evening. [more]

Himself and Nora

June 29, 2016

James Joyce most always put himself first, according to Jonathan Brielle, who wrote the book, music and lyrics for "Himself and Nora," (subtitled “The Greatest Love Story Never Told”), Minetta Lane Theatre’s new Off-Broadway musical. Brielle explores the narcissistic and codependent 37-year relationship between James Joyce and Nora Barnacle (who later became Joyce’s wife). For a purported love story that defined a genius and mesmerized Joyce enthusiasts for ages, the two-act musical is lightweight with minimal literary biographical details. [more]

I’ll Say She Is

June 21, 2016

Only a 30 page treatment and five songs remained from the original show by the Johnstone brothers, writer Will B. and composer Tom. Diamond has written new lyrics for music by Tom Johnston and his brother Alexander as well as using songs from other shows written by Tom and Will. He has rearranged the plot, left out some sequences, and reduced the number of characters. The show at the Connelly Theater is not so much a revival as a homage to Marx Brothers musicals. [more]

The Total Bent

June 6, 2016

Stew and Ms. Rodewald’s command of the musical genres of the 1960’s and 1970’s—gospel, Motown, soul, glam-rock, funk, R&B, blues, etc.—is astounding. The songs are organic extensions of the dialogue. In fact, this show could easily have been a straight drama or a sung-through opera. [more]

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

June 1, 2016

This production combines the simplicity of the 1967 Off Broadway original version with the additions from the 1999 Broadway revival, using two of Mr. Lippa’s songs and much of Mr. Mayer’s additions. Most notable is replacing the character of Patty with Charlie Brown’s sister Sally. For this role, Kristin Chenoweth won that year’s Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. [more]

Do I Hear a Waltz?

May 14, 2016

Ms. Errico gives a smashing musical theater performance. Her gutsy broad that’s tough on the outside and unraveling on the inside characterization is quite captivating. Her singing of several of the wan attempts at showstoppers exhibits her charismatic range. It’s definitely a case of a performer elevating weak material with their talents. Her commitment is as intense here as if she were playing either Sally or Phyllis from Follies particularly for the boozy ode to self pity, “Everyone Loves Leona.” [more]

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

May 13, 2016

Director Dev Bondarin cleverly enlisted scenic designer Tim McMath to transform the APAC’s theater into a high school gymnasium, complete with posters (“No Bullying Allowed,” “Today is a great day to learn something new,”) banners (“Go Cougars,”) and the kind of simple platform that would be at home in any gym. Bondarin also gifted this production with an air of immediacy and an unrelenting up-tempo. [more]

Votes

April 9, 2016

Under Gabrielle L. Kurlander’s intricate direction," Votes" presents a moving and personal picture of the real lives and feelings of an extremely powerful couple in America. Votes brings a more human side to their relationship – recalling how Melanie, played by Lisa Wright-Mathews, and William Jefferson (Wayne Miller), met as law students at Yale. It shines a light on their early plans to do some good in the world – all with a twinkle in their eyes as Melanie recalls how she first fell in love with the “pimply kid from Arkansas.” As this couple ages, they question if it was all worth it and consider what they are actually playing for, as this Election 2016 offers the bold chance to do something different. [more]

Wonderful Town

April 8, 2016

"Wonderful Town" is one of those musical comedies which seem to get better as they age due in this case to the classic quality of the Bernstein/ Comden & Green score and the witty book by Fields and Chodorov. Director Evan Pappas has given the Musicals Tonight! revival a bright, breezy, high-spirited production that is certain to put a smile on your face, while for a change you can go out humming the songs. Much more should be seen of Elizabeth Broadhurst who sparkles as would-be writer Ruth Sherwood. [more]

Cagney

April 5, 2016

Shoving a grapefruit into Mae Clarke’s face in "Public Enemy," George M. Cohan’s "Yankee Doodle Dandy" song and dance numbers for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, and the “Top of The World, Ma!” finale from "White Heat" are among the exciting factual highlights of this old-fashioned chronicle. [more]

1776

April 3, 2016

The prime instigator of the events, John Adams, was rotund and abrasive. Here he is played by the handsome Santino Fontana who was Prince Charming in the recent Broadway production of Cinderella. Though Mr. Fontana bears no physical resemblance to Adams he conveys his rage, frustration and humanity with his dynamic performance. Fontana’s soaring voice captures the emotion and humor of the score, particularly on "Is Anybody There?" [more]

Do Re Mi

March 25, 2016

One problem with reviving musicals from the pre-Sondheim era is that they were often created around the talent of a big, unique star like Ethel Merman, Bob Hope, Mary Martin, Al Jolson, Fanny Brice or Eddie Cantor. Unfortunately, not only are these talents not around, there are very few oversized personalities in musical theater today. Musicals Tonight!’s revival of the Jule Styne/Comden & Green musical, "Do Re Mi," runs into this problem. Originally tailored to fit comedians and singers Phil Silvers, Nancy Walker, Nancy Dussault, John Reardon, and Al Lewis, their presence is sorely missed. [more]

Southern Comfort

March 20, 2016

"Southern Comfort" is an ambitious and admirable attempt to depict a community that till now has been left off of our stages. Though the material at times seems tamer that the content would warrant, it is ultimately a very moving musical. It also is a showcase for Annette O’Toole to give one of the finest performances of the season. [more]

Babes in Arms

March 10, 2016

The musical known for its “Let’s put on a show!” plot has a great deal more going for it than one might expect. First off, it has one of the greatest scores ever written for a Broadway musical comedy adding the witty and lilting “Where or When,” “I Wish I Were in Love Again,” “Way Out West (on West End Avenue),” “Johnny One Note,” “The Lady Is A Tramp,” “Imagine” and the title number to the American Songbook. This represented more hits than any other R&H show. The political plot (which was sanitized in 1959 under the auspices of the composer himself) has been restored and the show is positively electric with hotly debated ideas, philosophies and theories. As performed by Andrews’ cast, the satiric show has a colorful array of dynamic characters. [more]

Mabel Madness: The Life of Mabel Mercer

March 10, 2016

Along the way she met the songwriters whose work she illuminated. During "Mabel Madness," Ms. Beverley sings “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man of Mine” (Kern/Hammerstein), “Down in the Dumps on the Ninetieth Floor” (Porter), “Summertime” (The Gershwins), amongst others. She uncannily finds Mercer’s style, sounding surprisingly like Mercer in her speak-singing period which depended mostly on exquisite timing, understanding the lyrics and hitting the few notes still within her power. She catches Mercer's regal, yet still down to earth, quality, too. [more]

Cabin in the Sky

February 14, 2016

Director Ruben Santiago-Hudson has inventively and thoughtfully staged the show with vibrant precision. Mr. Santiago-Hudson’s work combined with Camille A. Brown’s often stunning choreography makes for an eye-catching spectacle including the dream sequence with The Queen of Sheba in a golden gown and headdress. Santiago-Hudson also collaborated with Encores! artistic director Jack Viertel in adapting Lynn Root’s original book into an engagingly flowing narrative with depth. [more]
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