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Ann Hould-Ward

Macbeth (Classic Stage Company)

October 28, 2019

There has been a recent trend to perform Shakespeare as minimally as possible and with as few actors as possible. However, the question arises what is gained? When the doubling of roles proves confusing so that when actors appear it is difficult to know who they are playing, what is the point? Here the two actors who play the murderers Macbeth hires to kill Banquo report to him and then take their seats with the guests at his banquet which is quite disconcerting. In Doyle’s version, Macbeth himself kills Lady Macduff and her children rather than his henchmen – so who is minding the palace? Antonio Michael Woodard, the young man who plays Banquo’s son Fleance, appears in this scene as Macduff’s son but we know we have seen him before. [more]

High Button Shoes

May 20, 2019

But, fear not!  The Encores! creative team—director John Rando, music director, Rob Berman and choreographer Sarah O’Gleby—found a terrific cast led by Michael Urie in the Phil Silvers’ role of Harrison Floy and Betsy Wolfe as (Mama) Sarah Longstreet, Nanette Fabray’s role (which featured the earworm ditty “Papa, Won’t You Dance With Me?”). [more]

The Cradle Will Rock

April 6, 2019

Many of Blitzstein’s melodic tunes are plunked out on the piano by several of the players at various points. But the fault is not only due to Doyle’s direction: what’s missing from Blitzstein’s "The Cradle Will Rock" is the heart and or soul that every musical requires. It’s a wannabe musical or opera that, ironically, lacks substance, given its heavy-hitting intentions. [more]

Ballet Contemporáneo de Camagűey

March 19, 2019

The Camagűey troupe danced Ruiz’s work as if born to his vigorously eclectic style.  His choreography is an amalgam of ballet, modern dance, break-dancing, folk dancing and Latin ballroom.  He seems to be influenced by the work of Nacho Duato (himself a Jiri Kylian protégé) with his complex, body-interlocking lifts, bent torsos and a step-to-every-note. [more]

Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish

February 23, 2019

The property is now more than a half-century old. But this production makes it seem as though the 1964 iteration were merely an English-language version of a classic from even longer ago. There’s a greater feeling of immediacy than perhaps ever before. Hearing the characters speak and sing in the tongue that their real-life 1905 contemporaries would have used is deeply moving. What a shame that so many speakers of Yiddish from decades past never got the chance to experience the musical in this guise. [more]

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

November 17, 2018

The Classic Stage Company's current revival of Bertolt Brecht’s "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui" is not the first to draw comparisons between the sitting president and Hitler. In 2002, or the year after 9/11, National Theatre of Actors presented an all-star production in downtown Manhattan – featuring Al Pacino, no less - comparing Ui to Hitler and President George W. Bush. [more]

Fiddler on the Roof (The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene)

July 28, 2018

Steven Skybell’s Tevye warms up from a salt-of-the-earth, everyday philosopher to the much put-upon tragic existential hero upon whom God—to whom he speaks frequently—has heaped much tsouris.  By the time he has lost a third daughter Khavele, this time to a Russian Christian, his interpretations of the songs and his line readings are heart-breaking. [more]

Carmen Jones

July 1, 2018

Unlike the musicals "Rent" (an update on Puccini’s "La Boheme"), and "Miss Saigon' (inspired by Puccini’s "Madame Butterfly") both of which had all new music by other composers for their contemporary stories, "Carmen Jones" uses the original Bizet score. However, it is not simply an English translation. Hammerstein has written all new lyrics to place the story in a W.W. II Southern community (possibly North Carolina) and with the characters ending up in Chicago for the denouement. While "Carmen Jones" was a smash hit originally running for 503 performances at the Broadway Theatre during the war years, some like then critic James Baldwin found the dialect that Hammerstein had used for his African-American characters both embarrassing and demeaning, and the show has not had a New York revival until now. Notwithstanding, the first London production in 1991-92 was also a tremendous success at the Old Vic Theatre with a mix of both opera and theater stars in the cast. [more]

Fire and Air

February 4, 2018

Though the production has been designed by its director, John Doyle, there is no scenery to speak of, except for a gold framed mirror on the rear wall, another framed mirror angled and dangling above it, and five gold chairs. It all suggests the opulence for which Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes were known. Opulent, too, are the costumes designed by Ann Hould-Ward with everyone clad in black except for Nijinsky who is in colorful and playful ballet costumes. [more]

As You Like It (CSC)

October 2, 2017

Known as the Shakespeare play with the most song lyrics, the production also includes a deliciously bouncy new score by Stephen Schwartz in different musical styles from the 1920’s – 1950’s, including setting some of Orlando’s mash notes to Rosalind which are usually spoken in verse. The musical numbers are mostly reassigned to the musical theater veterans like de Shields and Stillman who plays an onstage, upright piano, with Leenya Rideout on violin and double bass, and other members of the cast occasionally joining in on guitar and triangle. All of this adds to the festive, light-hearted atmosphere. Originally announced as a Jazz Age interpretation, that concept seems to have gone by the wayside. [more]

Pacific Overtures

May 23, 2017

The playing space designed by Doyle is a narrow white runway with a stool at one end and at the other, an archway created by continuing the flooring into the air on which Japanese writing appears as on a banner. The audience sits in stadium-type seating on either side of the playing space. Eschewing pageantry, the production puts the cast in very bland outfits of black, grey, white, blue or beige (costumes by Ann Hould-Ward), adding fabric or robes when absolutely necessary. The lighting by Jane Cox occasionally bathes the stage in either red or blue mood lights. [more]

Ring Twice for Miranda

February 19, 2017

Although "Ring Twice" is filled to the brim with socio-political symbolism, it’s not likely that the author was trying for any direct reference to the current maddening political scene since gestation periods for plays are notoriously long. Clearly this play was written well before the 2016 election, so any vague commentary appears to be inadvertent. This is not to say that the metaphors and symbols Hruska uses aren’t intriguing in their own way. [more]

Dead Poets Society

November 22, 2016

That sequence is just one of the highlights of John Doyle’s commanding direction. Best known for his vibrant minimalist approach to musicals, Mr. Doyle brings that precise and visually expressive focus to this play. The cast of ten is expertly placed and moved around the relatively bare and spacious stage creating tension, excitement and striking tableaus that all connect to the story. There are also many presentational flourishes. [more]

Peer Gynt

May 31, 2016

As with many CSC productions, the modern dress costumes (here designed by Ann Hould-Ward) are entirely in black and white. A small handful of props are used (a tin of buttons, an onion) but the production is basically reduced to its dialogue and story. Since there are no breaks of any kind, the scenes segue one into another without transitions. As a result the audience has to stay focused on the play or it finds itself somewhere new and doesn’t know how it arrived there. The lighting design by Jane Cox alternates between light and dark without creating much atmosphere on the empty stage. [more]

The Color Purple

December 19, 2015

Playwright Marsha Norman’s book brilliantly and very faithfully streamlines and extracts the events and themes of the novel and film. These include racism, sexism, self-esteem and same-sex attraction. In addition, Ms. Norman created the clever device of three gossiping church ladies who appear throughout and briskly impart exposition. Her work swiftly and skillfully renders this sprawling tale into a contained and emotionally involving narrative. [more]

The Visit

April 24, 2015

The illustrious Chita Rivera appears in an elegant floor length white dress and bedecked with jewels. The grande dame’s presence electrifies the audience. Unfortunately, with little to work with, she postures and delivers McNally’s lines the best she can. Along with co-star Roger Rees as Anton Schell, her lover from the old days, she breathes some life into the song, “You, You, You.” When she dances, the ball is back in her court. There is a magnificent moment when she dances with her younger self (Michelle Veintimilla). Sensitively choreographed by Daniele, they do a sweet dream-like duet with grace and passion, the highlight of the evening. [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]

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]