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Off-Broadway

Out of My Comfort Zone

June 24, 2015

As with all productions by the Children’s Acting Company & Academy, the cast is comprised entirely of children and teenagers—in this case between the ages of 12 and 16—and for all its innocence and simplicity, the charm in this production is its sheer authenticity. Children and teenagers are by nature unfiltered, and to have kids playing their own age on stage is the recipe for an afternoon of uninhibited fun. For the most part, this is an impressive outing for a group of young and aspiring artists, and many of the cast members have already worked professionally in TV, film, or on-stage. [more]

Devil and the Deep

June 15, 2015

As if a talking parrot weren’t magical enough, the production and costumes are truly inspired. Conceptualized by Alisa Simonel-Keegan & Jim Keegan, the set design for this production is imaginative and destroys the perceived idea of value for a show presented in a black box theater. The lighting design (Jessica M. Kasprisin) is particularly beautiful, and is so unique in that it breathes a singular life into each separate exotic location. The finishing touch in the quest for an unmistakable mysticism and adventurous spirit can be traced to the costume design (Adrienne Carlile) which sees every single pirate, sailor, parrot or person uniquely dressed. [more]

Cagney

June 11, 2015

Although he was probably Hollywood’s most famous tough guy, James Cagney’s life story is not as well-known as that of many other legendary movie stars. The York Theatre Company’s new musical, simply called "Cagney," hopes to do something about that. Created around the obsession of actor Robert Creighton who looks a great deal like the red-headed Irish star, this entertaining show business musical also reveals the difficult times he had both on the streets of New York and at Warner Brothers in Hollywood which typecast him and wanted him to go on making the same picture over and over.  [more]

Casterbridge

June 10, 2015

In recent years, there have been many Off Broadway attempts to musicalize the works of Thomas Hardy. The latest is composer Christopher Beste and writer David Willinger’s ambitious, "Casterbridge," a very engrossing version of Hardy’s novel "The Mayor of Casterbridge." While some of the lovely music proves to be too difficult for some of the singers, under the direction of Willinger with musical director Bob Goldstone at the piano, the almost all sung-through stage version is an impressive and faithful retelling of the Hardy story. [more]

For the Last Time

June 9, 2015

As a follow-up to their musical based on Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, lyricist/composer Nancy Harrow and writer/director Will Pomerantz have turned their sights on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1860 novel, "The Marble Faun." Renamed "For the Last Time," this new jazz musical has changed the setting from Rome in 1860 to New Orleans, circa 1950, and uses an all-Black cast to tell the original story. The show’s glory is its magnificent score, a combination of jazz and blues ballads, wonderfully sung by its cast of seven. The problem is that the show started as a concept album and to some extent hasn’t progressed very far from there: the book by Pomerantz and Harrow remains too thin to deal with the plot’s very deep themes. [more]

What Are You Eating?

May 22, 2015

This score is a pleasant folk music affair with puns, sincerity, and silliness. Other characters such as a grouchy doctor appear as cardboard cutout puppets, along with cardboard cutouts of various foods. The audience on stage occasionally joins in for bantering and comments, and holding up their cardboard food from their plates. ...Mr. Wright is an excellent puppeteer and Mr. Singer is a fine guitarist/composer, and the two have a great camaraderie and both sing very well.  They created this good-natured show that is ably directed by Emily DeCola, with a breezy pace and lovely visual stagecraft. [more]

Search: Paul Clayton

May 17, 2015

Clayton and Dylan are played by Peter Oyloe and Jared Weiss, respectively, and the two have great onstage chemistry. Oyloe’s Clayton is a still, thoughtful, creative man; a man who felt misunderstood and spun out of control. Slowly, Oyloe turns the once motivated artist to a man with deep resentment, shame, and fear. This is in stark contrast to Weiss’ Dylan, a sinewy and charming portrayal of the famed singer. Oyloe and Weiss banter on stage like old friends, but the real connective tissue here is the music. Both actors are excellent musicians, who play classic folk and blues songs with skillful and soulful execution. [more]

Zorba!

May 9, 2015

Instrumental to its success is the thrilling direction of Walter Bobbie. Combining sensitive performances with an inspired sense of stagecraft, Mr. Bobbie creates many visually striking tableaus and images that vibrantly and emotionally realize this often funny and often painful material. These qualities are enhanced by choreographer Josh Rhodes’ wonderful and plentiful Greek dance sequences that range from euphoric to menacing. [more]

Mad About the Boy

April 23, 2015

Defaa’s direction is imaginative and is aided by the sensational choreography of Rayna Hirt, in creating precise, amazingly arresting production numbers with the large cast on the small stage. Standouts include a rousing military tap dance, Cole Porter’s “Find Me a Primitive Man,” with cast members dressed as cavemen, and a thrilling version of Noel Coward’s “Mad About The Boy,” with cast members wearing all black. [more]

Iowa

April 16, 2015

An actor in a suit wearing a pony mask and a tail trots out on stage a few times and later appears some more times without the mask to sing. A woman in a burqa (ordered from Amazon) walks around with a laptop. An ensemble of relatively mature women cavorts as high school cheerleaders, one of whom has sex with the pony. This same multi-racial group have another production number as all of them portray teen detective Nancy Drew. The show opens and closes with a young girl dressed as a boy in a seersucker shorts suit who sings. The drawn out finale involves a bunch of polygamous wives wearing different colored pastel gowns and singing what is called “Oratorio.” These are among the David Lynch-type surrealistic flourishes on display. [more]

Clinton the Musical

April 15, 2015

After a brief stint in the future, the show jumps back in time to the 1992 evening of Bill Clinton’s election. As the First Lady, Broadway veteran Kerry Butler is bold with her characterization, using vocal variation and employing highly stylized physical choices to bring Hillary to life. Still grandiose at best, Butler brings just enough warmth and heart to the character to ground the few fleeting dramatic moments. Early on the music is quite simply that of a musical comedy, but the writers manage to incorporate signature moments to showcase Butler’s true vocal abilities, in none more so than “Both Ways,” a power ballad performed by Butler with familiar command and ease. [more]

Pardon My English

April 10, 2015

Ironically, the only script that has survived is the original one by Hebert Fields (Annie Get Your Gun) and Morrie Ryskind (Pulitzer Prize for Of Thee I Sing). Musicals Tonight! is giving this pleasing confection its second outing since New York City Center Encores! reclaimed it in 2004 with a delightful revival marked by a top-notch cast of comedians. This rarely heard Gershwin score (which premiered “The Lorelei,” Isn’t a Pity,” and “My Cousin in Milwaukee”) is filled with musical riches, both famous and forgotten including two witty songs cut out of town, “Freud and Jung and Adler” and “He’s Oversexed.” [more]

John & Jen

March 23, 2015

"John & Jen" has very little dialog and almost no action that isn't described in the lyrics, so it's only fair to point out that it probably delivers as much on recording or in concert as it does here. That said, this production directed by Jonathan Silverstein with musical staging by Christine O’Grady is unfussy and effective. Scenic designer Steven C. Kemp provides a few static pieces which function as bed, hillside, or fence as needed, and it's a credit to all that their changing roles are never unclear. Given the small playing area, the nicely varied lighting by Josh Bradford helped much in avoiding monotony. [more]

Paint Your Wagon

March 21, 2015

The concert series Encores! “celebrates the rarely heard works of America’s most important composers and lyricists.” With "Paint Your Wagon," they have selected a perfect candidate to demonstrate their mission. Until now, it hasn’t been revived in New York City, and though some of the songs have remained familiar, the show itself has faded into relative obscurity. Artistic Director Jack Viertel and playwright Marc Acito are credited with this concert adaptation of the original book. [more]

Hazel Flagg

March 19, 2015

Sometimes stage properties that have been forgotten are lost for a good reason. "Hazel Flagg" is one of those shows. Jule Styne completists, however, will be glad of an opportunity to at last see this 1953 show. The one thing this show will do is send you back to the classic movie to see what all the fuss was about. [more]

Lonesome Traveler

March 19, 2015

As principal narrator, Justin Flagg is charismatic and easily engages the audience in a sing along. He is impressive playing a number of instruments and wearing several different hats. The talented ensemble cast does a superb job playing a colorful array of roles and instruments, singing a cappella, harmony, and full out concert style. The costumes by Pamela Shaw astutely help tell the story. Several scenes revealed behind the scrim call to mind a Norman Rockwell painting. And you could be fooled by the sight of Peter, Paul and Mary. Marty Kopulsky (hair and wig design) deserves accolades for the many characters and eras to reflect. [more]

Whoopee

March 12, 2015

Not seen locally since 1979, Musicals Tonight! is giving this light-hearted romp another outing as a concert staging in the Goodspeed Opera House version which streamlines the plot and adds two additional Donaldson hit songs: “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” (lyric By Kahn) and “You,” lyric by Harold Adamson. The hit song “Love Me or Leave Me” is reassigned to two of the romantic leads, rather than the unrelated role of Leslie which is eliminated in this version. While the William Anthony McGuire book is as light as helium and just as silly, typical of its era, director Thomas Sabella-Mills’ fast-paced production with a cast of excellent singing comedians does not give the audience much time to think about the plot’s inanities. [more]

Long Story Short

March 11, 2015

Does love provide the strength that keeps a marriage bound, or is love fragile and, when it wanes, the cause of the failures in a partnership? Maybe it’s both? The new musical "Long Story Short," written and composed by Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda, adapted from David Schulner's play An Infinite Ache, explores this quandary artfully. Skillfully directed by Kent Nicholson, this imaginative and fresh musical chronicles the ups and downs of a 50-year relationship between an Asian American woman and a Jewish American man. This aptly named 95-minute production poetically exposes the wonder and misery of a lifetime together. [more]

Fabulous!

February 24, 2015

"Fabulous!," which returns to Off-Broadway after a successful run last fall, is an unabashed gay mash-up of "Anything Goes" and "Some Like it Hot," where two best-friend drag queens, Laura Lee Handle (Tobias Young) and Jane Mann (DaWoyne A. Hill), working in Paris in a cheesy musical revue, witness the shooting of the star of the show. As everyone scurries frantically to get away, a priceless necklace falls off the victim and is retrieved by Laura Lee. The best friends flee the crime scene. [more]

Rosario and the Gypsies 

February 22, 2015

Premiering in 1982 as a one-act play with music, author Eduardo Machado, has now revised and expanded it into a full length musical. The first act is a decent all around effort, but the second act is leaden. Taking place 10 years after the first, it’s an interminable update of the character’s lives with numerous flamboyant plot twists. [more]

Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe

February 13, 2015

Nevermore, a pop operetta written, composed and directed by Jonathan Christenson, presents us with a biography of Edgar Allen Poe. The mostly sung-through piece is given visual delight by production designer Bretta Gerecke via a steampunk-inspired amalgam of styles: punk hair, goth makeup, and Victorian corsets, to which are added fanciful skirts and hats which appear to have been made from found objects. (Gerecke is responsible for sets, costumes, and lighting.) The cast of seven, featuring Scott Shpeley as Poe himself, are all excellent, dedicated and imaginative. Christenson’s direction works hand-in-glove with Laura Krewski’s choreography, all movement so thoughtfully and consistently stylized that it's both acting and dancing at every instant. It's subtitled "The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe," and that life is outlined well. [more]

Texas in Paris

February 13, 2015

While Alan Govenar’s "Texas in Paris" is not a musical in the traditional sense, it is definitely a concert in the literal sense. It is also an engrossing and subtle play about race relations and the misunderstandings that separate people. Under the restrained and assured direction by Akin Babatundé, the performances by Lillias White and Scott Wakefield are poignant and authentic. [more]

Lady, Be Good!

February 6, 2015

One of the chief pleasures here is the first appearance in more than 30 years by the legendary Tommy Tune in a New York City musical. Since his Tony Award-winning leading role in the Broadway Gershwin revisal, "My One and Only" in 1983, he’s directed, choreographed, made special appearances, toured in musicals and periodically performs a nightclub act. He plays an entertainer at the garden party and at the hotel. In a three-piece red neon suit, he sings and taps “Fascinating Rhythm” solo and then with the ensemble. In the second act, he’s in a blue neon suit and a straw boater with a blue bird on top to sing and tap “Little Jazz Bird.” After leaving the stage, he pops out from the wings, doffs the hat, revealing a gold star inside. It’s symbolic as he embodies the old time, unique star quality Broadway is known for. [more]

Into the Woods

February 6, 2015

Why another stage production of the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine "Into the Woods" while the film version is currently playing? The Roundabout Theatre Company is hosting the ingenious, clever and witty Fiasco Theater production (previously seen at the McCarter Theatre Center in 2014) of this iconic musical using fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm which is the best musical revival in town. This is what every revival should be – a reinvention of the original material making it new enough that it wipes out memories of the original. If you did not see Fiasco’s six-character version of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline which had an extended run Off Broadway in 2011, then you are in for a delightfully surprising treat. [more]

An American Worker

January 3, 2015

An American Worker is an agitprop musical in the spirit and tradition of social consciousness American theater such as the works of Sidney Kingsley, Clifford Odets, and Marc Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock. Though well intentioned, it is deficient on all crucial levels. [more]

A Christmas Carol – Players Theatre

December 22, 2014

The mastermind behind this enchanting show is Brenda Bell. Besides writing the well-crafted lyrics for the new songs, she also wrote the clever book that faithfully embodies Dickens’ sensibility with numerous offbeat touches. She has made it fresh for those familiar with the story, and a great introduction for those who might be experiencing it for the first time. As the director. she has superbly coordinated all of the production elements, staging, and performances into a beautiful event. [more]

Soul Doctor

December 18, 2014

If Shlomo Carlebach’s music holds a special place in your heart, then you will likely have a blast at this delightful, little homage of a show. If, like me, you could not name a single one of the “Rockstar Rabbi’s” songs, then this show will do little to inspire interest. [more]

Disenchanted!

December 15, 2014

“Happ’ly ever after…can be a royal pain in the ass!” sings Snow White in Disenchanted!, a pleasant musical spoof of iconic Disney princesses, that depicts them after their classic stories have ended. She, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and a number of other heroines comically complain during ninety minutes that are bright, and often entertaining, but that somewhat drag. [more]

A Christmas Memory

December 5, 2014

This musical theater version of "A Christmas Memory" has been performed around the United States in regional theaters, since 2010. This year, The Irish Repertory Theatre has selected it for its annual holiday production. Perhaps in a condensed version it would have provided the desired festive entertainment. [more]

Allegro

December 2, 2014

"Allegro" was inspired by Thornton Wilder's Our Town which also uses no scenery and uses the actors as a chorus commenting on the action. Aside from the actors all playing stringed instruments when the show begins (as well as other instruments in the course of the show such as piano, clarinets, oboe, etc.) in Mary-Mitchell Campbell's folksy new orchestrations, they remain on stage throughout as they both narrate and give advice to its hero Joseph Taylor, Jr. [more]

Blank! The Musical

November 26, 2014

It lasts 90, often shrill minutes, and has a full score performed by musicians and contains many dialogue-laden scenes. It seems implausible that much of this hasn't been prepared in advance. Maybe it hasn't. If it were really funny it wouldn't matter. Of course, that is a subjective matter of taste. [more]

Saturday Night

November 14, 2014

The York is celebrating their 20th season and this is their 100th show. It is fitting that these milestones are being commemorated by showcasing the work of one of the preeminent figures of musical theater. Their small-scale version of Saturday Night is exuberant, very entertaining and revelatory. This is all chiefly due to the talented cast of 15, largely composed of energetic youthful performers and several excellent mature character actors. Everyone effortlessly appears to be Brooklyn denizens and all bring comedic talent and depth to their roles. That they rehearsed for less than a week before giving their first performance makes their accomplishments even more considerable. Great credit must go to casting director Geoff Josselson for assembling them. [more]

The Band Wagon

November 13, 2014

Encores!, known for reviving neglected Broadway musicals for limited runs, is presenting the show. Here, it has strayed from its mission by producing this new adaption of a classic film musical, billed as "A Special Event," with mixed results. The first act drags with exposition and setting up complications that are sluggishly rendered. The second act is lively and very enjoyable. [more]
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