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Musicals

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]

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]

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

March 28, 2005

The show possesses a golden score characteristic of the Broadway golden age of the early 1950s, and is worth breathing life into, even if just for a weekend at City Center. Gary Griffin, who has tamed previous Encores! productions including "The New Moon" and last year's "Pardon My English," provides skillful, erudite direction for the piece, showcasing the musical's memorable score as well as a number of talented performers such as Jason Danieley, Emily Sinner, and Sally Murphy. [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]
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