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Musicals

Gigi the Musical

April 21, 2015

Though this sophisticated story was intended for equally sophisticated adults as part of the mores and manners of a society and culture gone with the wind, the stylish and colorful Broadway revival has solved all these problems with Heidi ("Call the Midwife," "Cranford," "Upstairs Downstairs") Thomas’ new adaptation of the Alan Jay Lerner book and the casting of Disney heroine Vanessa Hudgens in the title role. Gigi is now over 18 and Gaston is in his 20’s, which puts a decidedly different complexion on things. “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” is now sung by Gigi’s grandmother Mamita and her Aunt Alicia. All decidedly right and proper and the word courtesan (which is what this is about) is never once mentioned. Sex is never even an issue. Here love is simply a game. So what are we left with? [more]

An American in Paris

April 19, 2015

The director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon has re-envisioned this icon with a panache that borders on the genius, fulfilling the promise he showed with his extraordinary choreography for the 2002 "Sweet Smell of Success." This time around, from the windswept opening sequence, with its thumbnail sketch of W.W. II history to the breathlessly simple fade-out, it was clear that Wheeldon was in total command of his material, illuminating all of "An American in Paris"’ emotional twists and turns. [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]

On the Twentieth Century

April 3, 2015

The best revival of the season to date, Roundabout’s On the Twentieth Century is as streamlined and fast-paced as the actual train and twice as much fun. For her soon to be legendary performance, Chenoweth should assuredly win her first and long-delayed Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Don’t miss this show. It will be one for the record books. [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]

Hamilton

March 6, 2015

Alexander Hamilton may have been the unsung hero among the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution but a new musical will change all that. "Hamilton," now at the Public Theater, blows the dust off history and turns his story into the most exciting stage show in town. Inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography, triple-threat creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer, librettist and star of the show playing the title role, has had the terrific idea to write Hamilton as a through-composed hip-hop, r & b, rap musical which gives the 200-year-old story a tremendous shot of adrenalin. [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]

Side Show

November 27, 2014

There are a lot of words being wasted on what this show is not. This argument occurs because book writer and lyricist Bill Russell and composer Henry Krieger brought it to Broadway in 1997 without figuring out what story it was trying to tell. This new Side Show is a very substantial rewrite. It's no longer sung-through, it has additional material by director Bill Condon, as well as lots of new songs. [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]

On the Town

November 13, 2014

This On the Town, with 29 musicians and 31 actors, begins with a huge American flag and the singing of the national anthem, just as would have happened every night of the original run back in the 1940's during World War II. The show begins and ends at 6 A.M. at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Three sailors, Gabey (played by Tony Yazbeck for the third time), Ozzie and Chip have 24 hours shore leave to see all of the Big Apple before shipping out to Europe. Each wants to see the sights, both cultural and female. [more]

The Girl Who Came to Supper

November 10, 2014

The Girl Who Came to Supper from the 1963-64 Broadway season was Noel Coward's last musical and the only one in which he wrote music and lyrics to another author's story. In this case the musical was the work of playwright and screenwriter Harry Kurnitz, adapted from Terence Rattigan's The Sleeping Prince, which originally premiered in 1953 to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Better known in its film version called The Prince and the Showgirl, its plot travels back to June 1911 for the Coronation of George V, grandfather of Elizabeth. The lavishly costumed concert staging by Musicals Tonight! features first-rate leads and an excellent musical ensemble. It also demonstrates the strengths and weaknesses of the material. [more]

The Fortress of Solitude

November 7, 2014

Despite the novel's length of 511 pages, its focus on the music of its period would make this a natural for musicalization. The resulting show is an unusual stage work blending time and space, realism and magic, and exploring themes of race and gentrification, culture and self-discovery, fathers and sons, and how music defines the generation we live in. The music and lyrics in Friedman's magnificent and complex pastiche score includes pop, rock, rhythm & blues, soul, punk, hip-hop and heavy metal. While the musical doesn't entirely reach its goal as of now, it is most of the way to being an extraordinary new theater work. In defining a community and a generation through its music, it attempts to create a new form of musical. [more]

The Last Ship

November 4, 2014

The problem with the show is the book by first time librettist John Logan (Red, Never the Sinner) and Brian Yorkey (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for the musical Next to Normal) which leaves plot points undeveloped, characters on the one dimensional level and an ending which leaves much unresolved. What the show is best at is creating a sense of community among the men who work in the shipyards and the women in their lives who back them up. The choreographed movement by Steven Hoggett ("Once," "Rocky" and "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") has knit the large cast of 30 into a cohesive whole with its muscular routines. [more]
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