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Musicals

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]

The Zombies: A Musical

June 18, 2014

Scenically the show is quite proficient, ingeniously using simple props with well-conceived wall projections and displaying funny animations and representing the locations of the town. A great detail is the reappearing small scurrying roach in Pedro's Café. Structurally the show is problematic. The second act is packed with action and revelations but at over two hours with intermission, it all feels too long, the length diluting its effectiveness. [more]

Gertrude Stein Saints!

June 16, 2014

The music is much like that of their models. Songs improvised in garages, fields, or vacant lots are often short on harmonic and melodic sophistication, but this is mitigated by rhythmic subtlety, verbal dexterity, and, most importantly, brevity. No segment lasts long enough to become boring. [more]

Rugantino

June 14, 2014

The cast is full of terrific comedians, most of whom are well-established television and movie stars back in Italy--at least three or four received entrance applause. Watching Brignano in the lead (who is seldom offstage for long) was like watching Sid Caesar in his prime. But they're not especially great singers, and that's a bit of a problem. The music is obviously beloved by the Italian audience, which applauded in recognition at the beginning of the Act 1 finale, "Roma, Non Fa La Stupida Stasera," but the quality of the music was curiously divided. The instrumental interludes were vivid and colorful, with interesting harmonies and melodic turns. [more]

The Anthem

June 14, 2014

This campy extravaganza channels the spirit, tone and sound of past offbeat edgy musicals: an appropriate subtitle for it would be Ayn Rand Superstar. [more]

Irma La Douce

June 1, 2014

Alas, by intermission many in the audience were asking each other: this was a Broadway smash? From Encores! we have come to expect Champagne, and this was a dreary vin ordinaire, a bit pale and a bit stale. [more]

Mary Poppins

May 26, 2014

Director Richard Stafford thus has more opportunity to zip Mary Poppins about in the air at the WBT, much to the delight of an audience of thrilled children and their handlers. He also keeps his show moving as briskly as possible with clever use of cast members whisking about the ingenious settings by Steve Loftus. Derek Lockwood, costume designer, keeps them even busier in a wild array of constant changes. [more]

Here Lies Love

May 10, 2014

The Public Theatre’s LuEsther Hall has been reconfigured to resemble a nightclub where most of the audience stands to view the action which is performed all over the space on stages and platforms on all sides as well as platforms in the center that are moved by stage crew members. Young floor crew members in pink jump suits direct the audience to move around sometimes on stage and to encourage audience dancing and participation at appropriate times. There’s upper level seating away from the scene where one can sit and watch the events. [more]

Here Lies Love

May 10, 2014

David Byrne and his collaborators have created a unique musical theater extravaganza that dramatizes the life of this historical pop icon in all her victories and defeats. [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]

Heathers: The Musical

April 30, 2014

The vibrant simple set by Timothy R. Mackabee, Amy Clark's lively 80's style costumes (shoulder pads galore), 80's big hair wigs and florid makeup by Leah J. Loukas, and Jason Lyons' expert lighting all make the show visually engaging. Music director Dominick Amendum and sound designer Johnny Massena keep everything aurally modulated without sacrificing bombast. [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]

Inventing Mary Martin

April 24, 2014

The small-scale physical production is enhanced by the creative contributions of the technical staff. Mary Jo Dondlinger's lighting design skillfully moves the show through numerous time periods. Inventively filling the moderately sized stage are the props, furniture, slide projections and illustrative panels of production designer Justin West and scenic designer James Morgan. The sound design of Janie Bullard very effectively blends the music, singing, slide projections and voice-overs. The cast's often quick changes and visual appeal are greatly helped by Patricia McGourty's superb costumes. [more]

The Threepenny Opera

April 12, 2014

The most famous songs (covered by many artists) continue to be "Ballad of Mack the Knife" and "Pirate Jennie." Although uncredited, the orchestrations appear to be Kurt Weill's own as they were in the 1954 Blitzstein/Theatre de Lys production. While the seven-piece orchestra under the direction of Fred Lassen is generally fine, occasionally the music seems too slow for Weill's jazzy rhythms. As to the musical numbers in the Blitzstein version, there has been some rearrangement. The "Barbara Song" originally sung by Lucy Brown has been reassigned to Polly Peachum. As a result, in order to give Lucy a song of her own, "Ballad of the Drowned Girl" from the Weill/Brecht Berlin Requiem (in an orchestration by music director Gary S. Fagin) has been interpolated into the score. [more]

America’s Sweetheart

April 4, 2014

Jennifer Evans as French bombshell Denise Torel lights up the stage every time she appears. Her French accent is straight from Paris and she has a cunning way with a song. As the second bananas Madge and Larry, Molly Pope (of cabaret fame) and Thom Caska (aka associate producer for the StrawHat Auditions) turn their confrontations and shenanigans into stand-up comedy at which they are quite adept. Michael Mahany and Laurie Hymes as rising stars Michael and Geraldine bring a great deal of conviction to these leading roles, though Hymes' lisp disappears each time each she starts to sing. [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]

The Most Happy Fella

March 29, 2014

    Laura Benanti and Shuler Hensley in a scene from The Most Happy Fella (Photo credit: [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]

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]
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