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Diane Paulus

Caroline, or Change

November 9, 2021

"Caroline, or Change" is an important musical, more now than in 2004.  It should be seen.  The Roundabout production, though somewhat flawed, still communicates the complicated relationship between Blacks and Jews, clearly an issue in today’s New York City.  It is an excellently constructed show, its message surviving mostly intact. [more]

Jagged Little Pill

December 15, 2019

Given the personal nature of Morissette's artistic output, it might be surprising to learn that the Broadway version of Jagged Little Pill doesn't take the easy biographical route for its book, mimicking, say, the mega-popular "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical," whose subtitle pretty much says it all. Instead, Morissette's album (Glen Ballard co-wrote the music) and a few of her other songs support an entirely original story from theater-novice Diablo Cody, whose Oscar-winning screenplay for "Juno" was funny, affecting, and decidedly superficial. This same descriptive mixed bag also holds true for Jagged Little Pill, which rises above typical jukebox musical fare, but not as much as it could have, largely because Cody is interested in hot-button issues, not characters. [more]

Gloria: A Life

November 13, 2018

The play succeeds in part because it takes such an upbeat view of Steinem and her career. Early in the play, the character proclaims herself to be a “hope-aholic”—and her stalwart optimism proves contagious. Yes, challenges to women’s rights have been rife in the last couple of years. But when—at the top of the play—we see projected TV clips depicting the cultural pigeonholing of 1950's women as wives and mothers and little more, it lends our current situation a welcome perspective. “Is this what some Americans are nostalgic for?” Lahti’s Steinem asks skeptically after these clips are shown. It seems inconceivable that even the most retrogressive critic would answer in the affirmative. [more]

In the Body of the World

February 20, 2018

"Body" dovetails Ensler’s personal agonizing battle with cancer and her involvement with a feminist group in the Democratic Republic of Congo where women have faced violence, rape and almost unending disruption of their lives.  Ensler’s input was requested by Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist whose ministrations to the female victims of the sadism of soldiers and government officials paints a litany of one tragic event after another. [more]

Waitress

April 30, 2016

The musical’s new libretto, written by Jessie Nelson, riffs broadly on Shelly’s quietly poignant storyline and her very human, finely etched characters. The characters, broadened and amped up several notches to register on the large stage of a Broadway house, eventually do endear themselves even if they are just a bit shy of caricature. Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles’ music and lyrics further perpetuate the broad brush paint job with all the characters getting an exultantly defining number that elucidates their eccentric stories or the turmoil in their minds. [more]

Finding Neverland

May 3, 2015

Directed by the usually innovative Diane Paulus (whose credits include the critically acclaimed "Hair," "Porgy and Bess," "Pippin"), "Finding Neverland" has been created by the numbers and its staging suggests a great many earlier musicals. The score by Gary Barlow & Eliot Kennedy, long associated with the UK band, Take That, and writing their first musical, is filled with serviceable and prosaic ballads and anthems (with many false rhymes) to pleasant melodies but none which really forward the story. With titles like “Believe” and “Neverland,” they often have an overly familiar feeling. While Finding Neverland steals shamelessly from the 1954 Jule Styne-Comden & Green musicalization of Barrie’s play"Peter Pan," it never comes close to the charm of that earlier musical. [more]