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Still Open

These are the shows that – to the best of our information – we think are still open to see.

On the Town with Chip Deffaa: “Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust Road”… Carmichael deserves better

December 5, 2022

Boy! This is going to be a tough review to write.  The York Theatre Company, which has such a strong track record when it comes to honoring important songwriters, is currently presenting a revue of Hoagy Carmichael songs called "Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust Road."  Carmichael (1899-1981) is one of the greatest of American songwriters.  No one’s done an overview of Carmichael’s work in many, many years.  So, this production is important.   The show should be a natural.  But developing a show isn’t always easy. This will likely be the longest review I’ve ever written about a single show; but the show merits a detailed discussion.  The production I just saw has significant flaws, as well as significant strengths.  I hope the show can be further developed so it can fulfill its potential. [more]

& Juliet

November 30, 2022

The cast is a combination of New York stage favorites (Stark Sands, "Kinky Boots," and Betsy Wolfe, "Waitress," "Falsettos" and "The Mystery of Edwin Drood"), new faces (Lorna Courtney, Ben Jackson Walker, Justin David Sullivan) and older veterans (opera baritone Paolo Szot and London stage star Melanie La Barrie making her Broadway debut.) The clever book is by writer David West Read previously seen in New York with "The Performers" and "The Dream of the Burning Boy" as well as the long running television series Schitt’s Creek. The show seems to have been influenced by "Something Rotten"(parody of Elizabethan times), "Six "(its updated 16th century costumes by Paloma Young), "Head Over Heels" (reboot of a classic tale wedded to a pop-rock score) and "Moulin Rouge" (the over-the-top staging by director Luke Sheppard and choreographer Jennifer Weber) – but is actually more fun than all of those shows. At times it resembles "Saturday Night Live" skits but knows enough to keep them short and not let any of them go on too long before introducing the next complication. [more]

Eleanor and Alice: Conversations Between Two Remarkable Roosevelts

November 28, 2022

Ellen Abrams’ new play "Eleanor and Alice – Conversations Between Two Remarkable Roosevelts" explores their superficial courtesies in a series of conversations spanning 1904 until 1962, agreeable conversations that reveal an often disagreeable, if not downright adversarial relationship. Scenic designer Frank J. Oliva has divided the stage at Urban Stages into two discrete areas, one representing the Roosevelt estate, Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, Long Island, and the other Eleanor Roosevelt’s charmingly simple home, Val-Kill, in Hyde Park, New York.  Kyle Artone’s costumes are simple representations of the two women as they travel their different paths through history. [more]

A Christmas Carol (Jefferson Mays)

November 27, 2022

Visually the show pulls out all of the stops continually making stage magic. Every scene offers new scenic effects and things that appear impossible but are right there on stage before you, and disappear in a twinkling of an eye to be replaced by new wonders. Beginning with Marley’s hearse in a flashback to seven years ago, Laffrey’s designs include Scrooge’s gloomy office, Scrooge’s staircase which somehow deposits him in his even darker  bedroom on the second floor, the depressing all-boys school that Scrooge attended as a youth, Fezziwig’s warehouse (Scrooge’s first real job,) a colorful Christmas panorama filled with food and presents, the poor kitchen of the Cratchit family, the lavish dining room of his nephew Fred, and a brightly lit snow-filled cemetery. Using streaming video projection, a revolving stage and seemingly magic acts, as well as fog and snow effects, the production attempts all things that are possible on a stage. [more]

Remembering Robert Clary: From the Concentration Camps to Broadway and Hollywood

November 27, 2022

Clary scored a great success on Broadway in "Leonard Sillman’s New Faces of 1952."  My father, who enjoyed that show, recalled Eartha Kitt and Robert Clary as the standouts in the cast of largely-unknown up-and-coming performers that also included Paul Lynde, Alice Ghostley, Carol Lawrence, and Ronny Graham.  None of the performers were yet big names.  And the smart, fast-paced revue gave them important exposure.  (My father noted that this was an especially good revue, in a time when revues were still a staple of Broadway.  He missed the revues when revues fell out of fashion on Broadway.)  Producer/writer Leonard Sillman, whose various New Faces revues enlivened Broadway from the 1930’s through the 1960’s, helped advance the careers of plenty of talented newcomers over the years, beginning with Henry Fonda and Imogene Coca, the standouts in Sillman’s first revue in the series, "New Faces of 1934." [more]

Sandra

November 26, 2022

Cale’s story uses many film noir devices from the 1940’s: exotic locale, strange encounters, searching down unknown streets, disappearing characters, a sexy stranger, danger signals avoided, clues that don’t add up, information that turns out to be fallacious, a damsel in distress, stolen objects, moments of high passion, etc. Yet all seem to be used as if for the first time. The elements are time tested, but the story is new. Cale is an excellent storyteller pulling us in with enough hints and clues to keep us interested until the very end. There are moments that sag but he always pulls out us into something new and unexpected. [more]

Evanston Salt Costs Climbing

November 25, 2022

Will Arbery’s Evanston "Salt Costs Climbing" (set in the city in which the author received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in 2015) is a perplexing experience as it shifts from realism to absurdism to surrealism. Its worthy topics of ecology and climate change notwithstanding, the play’s repetitiousness and unprepared-for events are frustrating as well as the missing backstories. While it begins interestingly enough , it very quickly turns tedious and inexplicable. A noble experiment, "Evanston Salt Costs Climbing" is either for the select few or needs a rewrite or second draft. [more]

Cocoon

November 25, 2022

Director Kotryna Gesait’s direction does not have the necessary distance from the material to realize that actors speaking simultaneously will blur content and intentions for the audience. Scenic design of Chantal Marks provides the obligatory cocoon-like fabrics draped from the ceiling as well as on the walls. Heather Crocker’s lighting design is supportive of the many changing moods of the piece from scene to scene. The sound design of Nadav Rayman underlines key shifts beautifully. [more]

Camp Siegfried

November 24, 2022

"Camp Siegfried" is a new departure for the author of "Small Mouth Sounds," "Continuity," "Make Believe" and "Grand Horizons." Depicting an important piece of history in an age when hate speech is on the rise, the play seems to be attempting something it doesn’t quite achieve. However, it is certainly a worthy effort and an engrossing piece in the theater though it leaves us hungry for more. [more]

The Rat Trap

November 23, 2022

Noel Coward’s "The Rat Trap" is not only entertaining but seems to have been ahead of its time. Discounted by critics and the author alike when it had its only production until now in 1926, the play turns out to be a cogent exploration of a creative woman’s search for her place in society, one which has no niche for her talents once she is a married woman. The Mint Theater Company does the play justice, restoring its reputation as an Edwardian period piece on the topic of the New Woman who is also a gifted artist. In Sarin Monae West and Elisabeth Gray we see the work of talented performers who we want to see more of in the future. [more]

An Appreciation of Michael Feingold (1945-2022)

November 23, 2022

He saw seemingly everything, and championed plays and productions he found meaningful, even if they were at the smallest of theaters.  He chose what he wished to cover, and would sometimes expound at great length about a drama Off-Broadway or Off-Off-Broadway that he felt was worthwhile and might otherwise be neglected, and then dispatch in the shortest, most terse review imaginable a big, glossy commercial Broadway musical that he was sure would find an audience but—in his eyes—was devoid of much artistic value. [more]

Kimberly Akimbo

November 23, 2022

"Kimberly Akimbo," David Lindsay-Abaire’s oddball take on the title character’s dishearteningly sad disease, began life as a play back in 2001, reaching New York via the Manhattan Theatre Club in 2003. In 2021 Lindsay-Abaire (libretto and lyrics) combined resources with the eloquent composer, Jeanine Tesori, to restyle the play as an award-winning musical produced at the Atlantic Theater Company in November 2021. This is the production that has moved to the Booth Theatre where it now resides featuring the glowing performance of Victoria Clark as the troubled title character. Jessica Stone repeats her directorial duties, managing the move to a larger venue with skill and subtlety. [more]

George Kaplan

November 20, 2022

"George Kaplan" is a beautifully realized drama with comedic elements by Frédéric Sonntag, translated into North American English by Samuel Buggeln. The viewer will laugh but will also be brought to gently encounter deeper and possibly disturbing questions about our political and cultural perceptions. Questions such as What is the nature of a surveillance culture? How do fiction and disinformation relate to the perception of reality? Does myth lead to conspiracy theories? Who is manipulating us, and for what purpose? Does any of it matter in the whole scheme of things? [more]

Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man & The Pool

November 20, 2022

Still, rest assured, most of what Birbiglia says is funny, even for any fans well aware that Birbiglia is leading us somewhere that is not. Given the eponymous Hemingway allusion, the show's mortal endpoint is obvious, but the journey to it is full of surprising, and sometimes touching, laughs. They begin with an annual health checkup that includes a worrisomely poor performance on a spirometer, the ball-and-hose machine that measures lung function. The results baffle Birbiglia's doctor, since they seem to indicate he was having a heart attack while taking the test. [more]

Where the Mountain Meets the Sea

November 19, 2022

A touching portrait of a father and his alienated son unfolds in the Manhattan Theatre Club’s "Where the Mountain Meets the Sea" by Jeff Augustin, directed by Joshua Kahan Brody. ... "When the Mountain Meets the Sea" is not only about two different people, but two different time periods.  Jean exists in memory while Jonah’s journey is to cross the country, retrieve Jean’s ashes and spread them over Haiti. [more]

Anthony Rapp’s Solo Show, “Without You,” To Get Off-Broadway Run

November 16, 2022

I think this is great news. I’m happy the show will finally be getting a full theatrical production in New York.  I saw the original festival-production tryout of "Without You" about a dozen years ago and found it to be the most affecting and meaningful solo show that I'd seen in years. I’d previously felt the same way about Rapp's book, "Without You"—it was the most absorbing showbiz memoir I'd come across in years; I bought copies of that book to give friends as presents. [more]

Downstate

November 16, 2022

Norris’ smart and effective script is packed with controversy; its characters are stained by the trauma in which their lives have been steeped, and it’s uncertain they will ever feel clean again. So many questions come to mind as this play unfolds. ... "Downstate" is a stirring, thought-provoking play about a deeply painful topic that plagues societies around the world. It’s an extremely tight piece of writing; every word and action is relevant. I can’t wait to see it again. [more]

Almost Famous

November 15, 2022

What Crowe has done in writing his own book for the new show is recreate almost exactly every scene in the movie starting from the time when 15-year-old hero William Miller meets rock critic Lester Bangs, including the bus and plane sequences. The best lines in the stage version are recognizable from the film and nothing of equal stature has been added to the version now on stage at the Bernard J. Jacobs Theatre. The new songs credited to composer Tom Kitt with lyrics by Crowe and Kitt add little to the work as they do not forward the story. A good many of the iconic songs from the film make their appearance but as staged by director Jeremy Herrin and choreographer Sarah O’Gleby they are the least effective numbers in the show. [more]

On the Passing of Aaron Carter

November 14, 2022

He had his first album out by age nine, the same year he began opening for the Backstreet Boys. (His older brother, Nick Carter, was of course one of the Backstreet Boys.)  And he enjoyed a good run, with hit records, concerts, videos, TV guest shots.  He even got to star in a now-forgotten movie, Popstar, in which my friend David Cassidy had a supporting role, playing his manager. [more]

The Piano Lesson

November 14, 2022

LaTanya Richardson Jackson (Samuel L. Jackson’s wife) has directed in a desultory fashion.  Long, revealing monologues, the backbone of this particular play, are delivered directly to the audience rather than to the other characters, making them more speeches than important character revelations.  She also chose to overdo the ending, which includes an ill-advised exorcism and won’t be ruined here. [more]

Jay Rogers: A Remembrance

November 12, 2022

Jay Rogers, who's lost his battle with cancer, was a wonderfully impish cabaret star, with impeccable comic timing. Totally likeable fellow, on stage and off stage. I was so happy to be able to include him on an album I produced this year, "Chip Deffaa's My Man.” He's a total delight, singing an original song by Barry Kleinbort, "Leading Lady Valentine." I'm so glad he was able to record it for me. No one else could have put over that special material with such great charm. I would not have recorded that song had he been unavailable. And I'd hoped to record him again.  I first saw him, several decades ago, in a witty cabaret show at Eighty-Eights, singing songs of George Winters. [more]

In Memory of Playwright/Director/Actor Douglas McGrath

November 12, 2022

In October, he opened in an autobiographical Off-Broadway play that he wrote, 'Everything's Fine"—a good-natured remembrance of his youth, and of a school teacher who fell for him.  He performed the show, as usual, on the night of November 2nd, and everything did, indeed, seem to be fine.  He was expecting to continue the run into 2023, and then focus on the film adaptation of "Beautiful." But on November 3rd, 2022, he died at his Manhattan office, unexpectedly, of a heart attack.    [more]

Catch as Catch Can

November 10, 2022

Chung has the six characters played by three actors, each playing a parent/child duo switching from one to the other in confusing frequency. In addition, each actor plays a parent of the opposite gender. To muddy things even further, all the characters are played by Asian-Americans who make honest, but failing, attempts to adopt working class Italian and Irish Catholic accents and attitudes.  Lon/Daniela are played by Cindy Cheung; Roberta/Robbie by Jon Norman Schneider; and Theresa/Tim by Rob Yang. [more]

You Will Get Sick

November 8, 2022

Ostensibly a comedy, or a tragi-comedy, or a dystopic mashup of "The Wizard of Oz" and "Field of Dreams," Diaz's play could possibly be enjoyed as a befuddling trifle if not for its serious pretensions about morbidity and mortality. Both aspects of this double downer involve a young man (the hopelessly adrift Daniel K. Isaac) recently diagnosed with a terminal disease that Diaz, desperately straining for universality, never identifies. He also doesn't note any character names in the program's cast list, referring to each of the actors only by the numbers 1 through 5, even though character names are used in the script. This concealment likely is a way of protecting the play's huge final reveal, or it could have another point that exists in Diaz's noggin but not in mine. [more]

Topdog/Underdog

November 4, 2022

The 20th anniversary revival of Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "Topdog/Underdog," is just as powerful and absorbing as before with its story of two African American brothers Booth and Lincoln who are searching for the American Dream in opposite ways. Under the astute but leisurely direction of Kenny Leon (Tony Award Best Revivals of "A Soldier’s Play," "A Raisin in the Sun" and "Fences"), rising stars Corey Hawkins (Tony nominated for "Six Degrees of Separation," and appearances in the film versions of "In the Heights" and "The Tragedy of Macbeth") and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Emmy Award winner for HBO’s "Watchmen" as well as ensemble awards for the cast of "The Trial of the Chicago 7") give riveted performances in this two-hander. [more]

Straight Line Crazy

November 1, 2022

Ralph Fiennes’ towering performance as a megalomaniac who changes the face of New York as we know it is worth the price of admission. With his puffed out chest and nose in the air remaking himself physically, he creates a biographical portrait which will go down in the theater annals. Co-directors Nicholas Hytner and Jamie Armitage keep all the data and speechifying fascinating despite what could be the dryness of the material. And let’s not forget David Hare’s achievement to place the 30 year career of builder Robert Moses front and center on stage without overwhelming us with facts and figures but creating drama out of real life confrontations. "Straight Line Crazy" may just prove to be the dramatic high point of this theater season. [more]

Chushingura – 47 Ronin

October 24, 2022

It’s not clear what Amaterasu Za’s mission is.  If, as Dachs’ program comments indicate, it is to bring Japanese culture to modern audiences, the company needs to be less stodgy and more contemporary in its approach to such vivid dramas as "Chushingura - 47 Ronin." If this production is representative of their efforts, Amaterasu Za is dedicated to first rate representations of high Japanese art.  Their standards are high.  Perhaps, Dachs and her company can figure out how to combine a reverence for traditional Japanese theater with appealing to a wider audience without sacrificing authenticity. [more]

Death of a Salesman

October 19, 2022

To be clear, the casting isn't colorblind; it's just casting, with director Miranda Cromwell delicately drawing out a different set of lived experiences from Miller's almost untouched words. The play's West-End co-director Marianne Elliott has not  made the journey across the pond with its ongoing contributors, all of whom deserve kudos for the revelatory production, especially Wendell Pierce ("Broke-ology," "The Wire," "Treme") as Willy and Sharon D. Clarke ("Caroline, or Change") as Linda, his long-suffering wife. Though Pierce devastatingly pulls Willy apart in front of our eyes until all that's left is his sense of failure, it's Clarke who gives Willy's downfall its saddest dimension, convincing the audience, beyond any doubt, that the very-flawed Willy is loved. If seeing previous productions of "Death of a Salesman" has inured you to Willy's ultimate fate, this one should bring back the tears, and Clarke deserves a lot of credit for that difficult gift. [more]

1776

October 18, 2022

Directed by Jeffrey L. Page (who also did the simplistic choreography) and Diane Paulus, this production’s well-meaning gimmick is to have all the historic characters played by a “cast that includes multiple representations of race, ethnicity and gender [who] identify as female, transgender and nonbinary,” to quote the exacting language of the production’s press release. This casting coup works most notably as a political statement, hopefully forcing the audience take a fresh look at the original all-male contingent, however brilliant they may have been, and their flaws.  The word “woman” never appears in the Declaration of Independence (nor the Constitution) and the millions of Black slaves were quite purposely and expediently left out of the Declaration. This multi-racial cast is a not-so-subtle slap in their faces. [more]

Leopoldstadt

October 17, 2022

Tom Stoppard’s "Leopoldstadt" is a powerful achievement, a history of our time as well as a cautionary tale. In depicting Jewish life in Vienna from 1899 - 1955, It also reveals a way of life and a culture rarely seen on our stage. Patrick Marber’s superb production keeps the story progressing at just the right tempo both to follow the plot as well as reflect family life as it is really lived. There is not a weak link among the 36 actors in which all of the children’s roles are double cast. The excellent design team puts four generations of Vienna on stage of Broadway’s Longacre Theatre. [more]

Our Town…but Wilder

October 10, 2022

Krevolin is a clever writer, turning Wilder’s American folk tale into a modern comedy/drama with relevance to today’s audiences.  Although he often makes his points a bit too obviously with the rantings of the bigots veering too close to cliché, he nimbly juggles the complex inter-relationships. His staging is simple, helped by Aurora Winger’s lighting.  Characters often enter down the aisle as they approach the stage tossing off their lines, cheerfully lit by Winger. While waiting for the next inevitable production of Wilder’s Our Town, whet your appetite with its modern cousin, "Our Town…but Wilder." [more]

Sacco and Vanzetti: A New American Opera

September 20, 2022

The finished score by Lehrman is 50% music he created based on themes by Blitzstein: pieces of his unproduced 1932 opera "The Condemned" (an earlier work about Sacco and Vanzetti), a march, a cabaret song, a song cycle, a piano piece for mezzo-soprano Brenda Lewis who had starred in Blitzstein’s 1949 opera "Regina" (based on Lillian Hellman’s "The Little Foxes"), and portions of 13 songs from "Reuben, Reuben," his 1955 folk opera set in Little Italy which failed in Boston and which he had been recycling in later works. Blitzstein’s libretto for the three-act "Sacco and Vanzetti"(performed at Lehman College in two parts) was based on transcripts, letters, and interviews with the principals involved in the case. One addition approved by the estate was the inclusion of Governor Michael Dukakis’ exoneration of Sacco and Vanzetti in 1977, the 50th anniversary of their execution, as a fitting new ending to the opera. [more]

Titanique

August 22, 2022

"Titantique" is the most hilarious musical parody to play New York in many a year. Since international superstar Céline Dion only got to sing one song at the end of James Cameron’s blockbuster "Titanic," the now iconic “My Heart Will Go On” which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Song, why not turn the film into a cabaret musical with a score made up entirely from the Céline Dion catalog? That is just what Marla Mindelle, Constantine Rousouli and Tye Blue’s book has uproariously done, casting Mindelle in the leading role as a perfect mimic of Céline Dion, Rousouli as hero Jack Dawson, and Blue directing the show. Whether you recall the film from 25 years ago or not, the satire is pungent and the jokes skewer many pop culture icons. [more]
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