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Donyale Werle

Songs for a New World

July 2, 2018

The unison of Jason Robert Brown’s accomplished score, Kate Whoriskey’s exciting direction and Rennie Harris’s vibrant choreography make this New York City Center Encores! Off-Center’s revival of his 1995 debut show "Songs for a New World," a dynamic theatrical experience. Mr. Brown’s surprise appearance at the piano to play a song in the second act was electrifying. [more]

Transfers

May 1, 2018

As Cristofer, Juan Castano is riveting in his honesty and his assurance. You could hear a pin drop during several of his monologue confessions as to why he didn’t do as well as he might have. His performance is almost frightening in its intensity. As the bookish Clarence, Ato Blankson-Wood is his diametric opposite, well-spoken, sensitive to other people, politically correct, well-mannered and able to hold his own in an intellectual conversation. He is equally intense in a quieter, more refined manner. Although both young actors have impressive New York credits, they should be better known after this. [more]

In Transit

December 16, 2016

The score by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth is a pleasant collection of serviceable songs. Their book, based on their original concept, is a workmanlike blueprint of peppy clichés. It does have topical references such as the Pizza Rat. The show lasts one hour and 40 minutes without an intermission and somewhat lags due to the familiar plot threads. [more]

Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

July 30, 2016

The charming and charismatic Broadway leading man Santino Fontana performs the role of Elliot Rosewater with as much commitment as if he were playing J. Pierrepont Finch. Mr. Fontana’s performance is the magnetic anchor of the show. Kilgore Trout is a loony science fiction author of 117 novels and over 2000 short stories and is a recurring character in Vonnegut’s novels. Here he appears briefly near the end of the show wearing a hunting cap and rising from a wheelchair. That he is played by the legendary 85-year-old James Earl Jones with his thundering voice, joyous presence and sly comic timing is wonderfully jolting. Mr. Jones also is the narrator. [more]

Runaways

July 12, 2016

The most remarkable thing about the Encores! Off-Center revival of the late Elizabeth Swados’ 1978 musical "Runaways" is that it is as fresh as when it was written almost four decades ago. The concert staging is perfect for this revue like show which deals with youthful alienation and abuse, making it feel extremely contemporary. Credit director Sam Pinkleton and a cast of 25 high-powered multi-racial and multi-ethnic performers, mostly New York City school children from 12 – 19. Among the performers are a deaf actor working in sign language (Ren), two actors who perform in Spanish (Claudia Ramirez and Joshua DeJesus), and a transgendered actress (MJ Rodriguez). It would not be hyperbole to say that among this cast are the stars of tomorrow. [more]

Daphne’s Dive

May 25, 2016

Although Quiara Alegría Hudes’ "Daphne’s Dive" follows the lives of seven fascinating people for whom Daphne’s North Philly bar is their true home, it is no "Cheers" and definitely no "The Iceman Cometh." No, "Daphne’s Dive" is a far gentler affair than either of those and more fearless for its gentleness. The seven people in this working class bar and grill affect each others’ lives as the play takes them from 1994 to 2011—and the audience is changed along with them. [more]

The Legend of Georgia McBride

September 29, 2015

Lopez knows these characters and how they speak. He is helped immensely by his director Mike Donahue who allows just enough comic exaggeration without ever letting the show become a cartoon. Paul McGill’s hilarious choreography for the drag acts is right on target. Donyale Werle’s single set is wonderfully adaptable, changing from the grungy dressing room at Cleo’s to its stage to Casey and Jo’s apartment with just the shifting of a wardrobe rack and a couch. Anita Yavich’s costumes are a show in themselves, maybe a bit too posh for the Panama City venue but a hoot nonetheless. [more]

The Wild Party

July 18, 2015

Sutton Foster is electrifying as Queenie the sexually insatiable nightclub performer who incites men to violence in this revival of the 2000 Off-Broadway musical The Wild Party. Lean and fierce and slinking around in a taut white sequined flapper dress and wearing a curly blonde wig, Ms. Foster’s star quality and performing talents are on dazzling display in this problematic Jazz Age ode to decadence. She continues to grow in her versatile stage career that has included such light shows as "Thoroughly Modern Millie," "The Drowsy Chaperone," "Shrek," "Young Frankenstein," and the more recent serious "Violet." [more]

A New Brain

June 30, 2015

The very talented and youthful Jonathan Groff is excellent as Gordon. His charming presence known from his work on stage (Spring Awakening, Hair) and on television (Glee, Looking) adds considerably in filling out the role of Gordon. He also has the advantage of having the most developed and sympathetic part. [more]

Pump Boys and Dinettes

July 17, 2014

Jordan Dean, Hunter Foster, Randy Redd and Lorenzo Wolff are The Pump Boys, and Mamie Parris and Katie Thompson are The Dinettes. All are not only terrific and personable performers, giving charmingly realized characterizations, but all wonderfully play instruments as well. [more]

Too Much Sun

May 19, 2014

Over a 25-year career as a playwright, Mr. Silver has become known for his eccentric black comedies with abrupt shifts in tone. This one feels like a breakthrough being his most ambitious and successful on many levels. The unison of remarkable writing, grand performances, and assured direction make Too Much Sun a highly outstanding play. [more]