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Ann Roth

The Prom

December 28, 2018

"The Prom" is giving Broadway something it’s been lacking for years, which is a high-spirited, old-fashioned musical comedy, where the cast’s energy spills out over the footlights, and is then reflected in all the smiling faces you encounter as you leave the theater. It’s the equivalent of a standing ovation that moves out into the streets. [more]

The Waverly Gallery

November 7, 2018

Even with the indelible impression of Eileen Heckart’s magnificent, original Gladys intact, Elaine May overcomes any comparisons as the current Gladys. There is nothing inventive or even artful about her performance: May simply is Gladys and Gladys is May, tracing her deterioration into senility with a remarkable realism. [more]

The Iceman Cometh

May 7, 2018

Denzel Washington, the raison d’être of this production (coming way too soon after several recent stagings), gives a boisterous, almost pleasant performance as Theodore Hickman, aka Hickey, who is the “Godot” of "Iceman," in whom the godforsaken characters put too much faith, a faith that, by the end of the play, is shown to be clearly misplaced. There is absolutely no foreboding in his interpretation.  He takes the glad-handing aspect of Hickey too literally so it is difficult to understand his sway over the denizens of Harry Hope’s saloon.  True, these depressives look forward to his regular visits, but Washington’s Hickey simply doesn’t fit in. He’s more worshiped than embraced. [more]

Carousel

April 22, 2018

If it seemed like no staging could ever top London’s National Theatre production (which was directed by Nicholas Hytner and came to Lincoln Center in the mid 1990’s), this newer version epitomizes the notorious relationship between anticipation and realization. Though the advance word during the extensive preview period was rather negative, Jack O’Brien’s "Carousel" proves up there with the best. [more]

Three Tall Women

April 3, 2018

If you pay any attention to the Rialto, then you knew that Jackson was going to be in the play--the play that salvaged Albee’s reputation in 1993 and won him his third Pulitzer Prize--since it was announced last year. And I’m pleased to report, if you were anticipating Jackson doing "Three Tall Women" with high expectations, you will not be disappointed. She surpasses whatever you were expecting with a kind of fierce and cold glory, appropriate to the 92-year-old A. From B’s servitude as A’s nurse, in the first part, to her becoming the somewhat haughty, 52-year-old A, in Part 2, Laurie Metcalf negotiates the character’s huge emotional shift with ease and naturalness. [more]

The Front Page

November 14, 2016

Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s "The Front Page" remains the quintessential comedy about the tabloid newspaper racket. Jack O’Brien’s production plays it safe while a more brazen and outrageous style might have obtained more laughs. The current revival with its many recognizable names and faces is still entertaining fun. And it does bring back to the Broadway stage the incomparable Nathan Lane in top form in an unforgettable role. [more]

Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All that Followed

June 27, 2016

"Shuffle Along..." follows the travails and triumphs of the creators of the 1921 David that fought what was at first a losing battle against the Goliath of the Broadway powers-that-be. The quartet that put the show together on a long road tour were libretto creators F.E. Miller (Brian Stokes Mitchell whose charisma and mind-boggling professionalism makes his character the safe harbor) and his partner, Aubrey Lyles (Arbender Robinson, brilliantly taking on the part usually played by Billy Porter); composer, Noble Sissle (Joshua Henry, giving a quietly dignified performance as an artist whose disappointment in America takes him to Africa) and lyricist, Eubie Blake (Brandon Victor Dixon, the more effervescent and demanding of the two songwriters). [more]

Blackbird

April 14, 2016

The problem with the staging begins from the outset. Daniels' Ray, tense and rigid, pushes demanding, triumphant Una into a corporate break room. He is upset to see her, and she is all confidence and gloating. Unfortunately, this scene starts at so high a peak of emotion that the play has nowhere to go. In fact, while their startlingly different accounts of the night they ran off together ought to be the high point of the play, the opening scene is peak of emotion instead. It is a calculated risk and it damages the play. [more]

Misery

November 23, 2015

The best role in the story is that of sociopath, deranged Annie Wilkes. Metcalf runs the gamut of emotions from bliss to murderous rage and back and turns on a dime. Unlike Willis, she uses her face to show all of her moods both pleased and black. Always interesting to watch, her Annie is revealed as crazier the longer the story goes on. The scenes in which she has to get Paul back into bed suggest that her Annie not only contains tremendous emotional extremes but also enormous strength from years running her farm. Playing the role less childless-like than Kathy Bates did in the movie, she makes Annie Wilkes all her own. As the third member of the cast in the minor role of the sheriff, Brown is completely convincing but he hasn’t been given much to do in his few brief scenes. [more]

Sylvia

November 9, 2015

Directed with comfortable assurance and a leisurely sense of timing, this "Sylvia" benefits from a (mostly) strong cast, including three Tony Award winners: Matthew Broderick (whose wife Sarah Jessica Parker played the title role in the original off-Broadway production), Julie White and Annaleigh Ashford. The brilliant, versatile Robert Sella who expertly and drolly plays three diverse roles, rounds out the cast. [more]

Fish in the Dark

March 22, 2015

Director Anna D. Shapiro, usually associated with heavier dramas from such authors as Kenneth Lonergan, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Tracy Letts, Bruce Norris and John Steinbeck, has surrounded David with an A-List of stage and screen stars (Jayne Houdyshell, Rita Wilson, Rosie Perez, Lewis J. Stadlen, Marylouise Burke, etc.), as well as some rising stars and performers to watch (Molly Ranson, Jonny Orsini, and Jake Cannavale). Part of her assignment is to direct the traffic of the very large cast (18 in all) of the Drexel clan on the four sets and keep out of the way of these pros doing what they do best. At this, Shapiro does a superb job. [more]

Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance

January 27, 2015

Although the play is written in the retro form of upper middle class drawing room comedy, it has a serious message and theme. The fear or terror that Edna (Higgins) and Harry (Balaban) bring to the home of Agnes (Close) and Tobias (Lithgow) is that which all people have to deal with: loneliness, abandonment, illness, ageing, death. When asked what one of his plays was about, Harold Pinter, a playwright with a similar sensibility to Albee, declared, “The weasel under the cocktail cabinet.” On a surface level, this flippant remark appears meaningless, but on deeper level it means the hidden fears that lurk in the dark corners of our lives to which we avoid giving a name. This also sums up the theme of Albee’s play which is couched in difficult set pieces and elliptical dialogue. [more]

It’s Only a Play

November 27, 2014

The revival of Terrence McNally's theater comedy, It's Only a Play, has the starriest cast in town. It reunites Tony Award winners Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick for the third time, and throws in for good measure Oscar Award winner F. Murray Abraham, Tony Award winner Stockard Channing, Harry Potter regular Rupert Grint, and Emmy Award winner Megan Mullally. This is probably just as well as this 1985 farce was slight in its Off Broadway production and in its first Broadway appearance, drastically updated, it seems even thinner. Jack O'Brien, who usually directs stronger stuff, pilots the expert cast around their paces. [more]