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Off-Broadway

Sweet Charity

December 28, 2016

The real reason to see the new "Sweet Charity," its third major New York revival, is for Sutton Foster’s bravura performance. Aside from nightclub singer Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, Foster has usually played innocent, clean-cut young women caught up in unusual situations. Here she again plays to type – but with a difference: Charity Hope Valentine works as a taxi dancer in a New York dance hall, a sleazy environment. However, she keeps her infectious innocence and her indomitable spirit despite one unfortunate romantic encounter after the other due to her gullibility. Under Leigh Silverman’s direction, Foster may just be the most convincing actress to ever play Charity. [more]

Life is for Living: Conversations with Coward

December 24, 2016

Green’s dry delivery is in the Coward manner, crisp, almost spoken to the music, with impeccable diction. Shrubsole’s accompaniment supports him without ever getting in the way. The most famous song is probably “I Went to a Marvelous Party,” and there are five songs from Coward’s last all-original Broadway musical "Sail Away." However, there are also unfamiliar songs from "After the Ball" (“Something on a Tray”) and" Pacific 1860" (“I Saw No Shadow”), London shows that never made it to Broadway. In addition is “London Pride,” recently heard in the rediscovered post-war musical, "Hoi Polloi." Stand-alone songs include the poignant “There’s No More to Say about Love” and “I Travel Alone.” [more]

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart

December 23, 2016

The Heath, The McKittrick Hotel’s restaurant, bar and music venue, has been dressed up with appropriate signs and objects such as a stuffed wolf to resemble a pub in Scotland. After the audience seat themselves, actors roam around and talk with them. They’re told to rip up the white napkins on the tables into little pieces. Later, they’ll be cued to throw them in the air to simulate a snowstorm for a cool effect. They’re also told that there are complimentary shots of whiskey at the bar where other drinks are sold. During the intermission, the staff offers small ham and cheese sandwiches. It’s all quite atmospheric. [more]

The Portal

December 12, 2016

While the visual aid is being projected in the background, a rock concert/spectacle is taking place on stage in front of the screen, and this is--thankfully--more interesting that the latter content. Billy Lewis Jr. is the physical manifestation of Kelly’s Dante; a rock star whose belting is a metaphorical echo of his counterpart’s internal strife. Lewis Jr. is a natural at singing rock music, and his vocal prowess is a saving grace for the production. [more]

Ride the Cyclone

December 10, 2016

Rockwell who also choreographed has turned each of the songs into an extravagant, go-for-broke production number. Best are Wardell’s “Noel’s Lament” in which he reveals he wants to be Monique Gibeau, a French street walker in black lingerie à la Marlene Dietrich’s Lola Lola, and Misha’s rap number, “This Song is Awesome” which segues into “Talia,” in which he reveals his rage and passion. Rohm’s semi-operatic aria, “The Ballad of Jane Doe,” has her flying over the audience as she continues to sing. [more]

Finian’s Rainbow

November 28, 2016

Moore’s adaptation successfully uses the small, recently renovated stage of the Irish Repertory Theatre so that even with 13 actors the performance area always looks populated with the people of Rainbow Valley. James Morgan’s clever unit set is redolent of the South with its huge live oak draped above the stage. Mary Jo Dondlinger’s lighting is redolent of the warm southern sun as well as the cool evening moonlight. The four piece orchestra sits neatly tucked in the back of the stage without distracting from the performance. [more]

A Taste of Things to Come

November 25, 2016

During the first half of the 20th century, the perception of women and their place in society was archaic and harmful to say the least. In fact, it wasn’t until the late 1950’s that the widely accepted oversimplification of the role of women was truly called into question and brought under scrutiny. Documenting the influential and crucial decade between the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, Debra Barsha and Hollye Levin’s new musical "A Taste of Things to Come" is a very pointed yet enjoyable exploration of these transformative years for the housewife, told through the eyes of four women who have a common interest in cooking. [more]

The Babies

November 23, 2016

Musical numbers are catchy and silly while sharing important life lessons. “What Are Friends For” and “All Alone” examines feelings of sadness, loneliness, and finding your tribe no matter your family circumstances. You may not be able to choose your family, but these babies will always have each other’s back. The emotional ballad, “We Will Get through This,” tugs at the heartstrings and is sung beautifully by Mallory. The scenic and lighting design by Josh Iacovelli brings light and warmth to the space with minimal props as not to distract from the group dynamic on stage – while ensuring that the babies are comfy and cozy in their distinctive onesies. [more]

Othello: The Remix

November 20, 2016

In this smart, clever version of the story, Iago, slightly uptight longtime member of Othello’s crew believes that he is not appreciated when newcomer Cassio, a much happier rapper who just enjoys performing gets more notice from Othello. As in the original, Iago plots Othello’s downfall by making him jealous, hinting that Cassio was romancing Desdemona, Othello’s love. Roderigo, the nerdy techie, with a lisp and a heavy heart, also yearns unrequitedly for Desdemona. [more]

Hoi Polloi

November 4, 2016

"Hoi Polloi" was Coward’s tribute to the London working class that was trying to get back on its feet after the devastation of World War II. Partly out of his element and partly as Coward never saw the show in production, both the book and the score seem like part of a first draft which needs to be fleshed out. Mindy Cooper’s tame production with a hard-working cast of ten seems at best second-rate Coward rather than any unjustly lost rediscovery. The Master may have realized that he had not solved his story’s problems. [more]

Duat

October 28, 2016

Constructed in three parts, the first part of Jones’ memoir-meets-manifest-destiny is an enchanting origin story that takes place in a mystical library that holds an archive of Jones’ life (set design by Arnulfo Maldonado). Though this portion of the story is filled with tidbits of information from his childhood and adolescence, the focus is on the story of the creation of his famous and renowned alter ego, Jomama Jones, and the book he discovered as a teen that aided in her creation (more on that later). [more]

Tick, Tick… BOOM!

October 27, 2016

Out of this frustration, Larson in 1991 began performing a rock monologue about his life and stalled career called 30/90, as it was set in 1990 as he turned thirty. Later it was retitled "Boho Days" and then "tick, tick... BOOM!," as a chief device is the ticking of a clock. The show was performed for short engagements at several New York City venues and ignited Larson’s career, leading to the creation and presentation of Rent Off-Broadway in 1996. [more]

Funny Face

October 24, 2016

Aside from the syncopated, bouncy score, the single best element is the sensational choreography by director Colgan whose dances also impressed in his revival of Oh, Kay! last year. While the cast has obviously been chosen for their dancing skills than their voices, there are some stand-outs in the production. As the rebellious Frankie (the original Adele Astaire role), Jessica Ernest in a platinum blonde wig is an irresistible bundle of energy. Doing a spot-on imitation of early Marilyn Monroe she steals every scene she is in and does a mean Charleston. Whitney Winfield as her level-headed sister June in love with their guardian gives memorable renditions of “How Long Has This Been Going On” and “Shall We Dance.” Caitlin Wilayto is an extremely fine comedienne as the ditzy sister Dora. [more]

I Like It Like That

October 21, 2016

Despite its formulaic story, "I Like It Like That" is quite exhilarating with its sensational salsa renditions as performed by its appealing cast and excellent band. [more]

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]
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