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James Morgan

Lonesome Blues

June 20, 2018

The show then become energized when Babatundé describes how Jefferson was discovered by a music executive when he was singing on the Texas streets while holding a tin cup. A recording contract follows and Jefferson became a leading blues performer in the 1920’s. Another bright sequence is a recreation of a concert. In the second half, we learn more about Johnson and the narration is more connected to the musical portions as it successfully concludes. [more]

Desperate Measures

June 14, 2018

Shakespearean spoofs are almost as old as Shakespeare himself, dating back to at least the Restoration period. Although the vast majority has faded into history, there are still some real standouts like the classic musical "Kiss Me, Kate," which thanks largely to Cole Porter is arguably even more enjoyable than its source material, a rare feat that the relatively new musical "Desperate Measures," now in its second off-Broadway run, also accomplishes. [more]

Unexpected Joy

May 10, 2018

With a Judy Collins-style mane of blonde hair and wearing jeans and suede, the sleek Luba Mason as Joy certainly looks the part. That mien is reinforced by Ms. Mason’s smoothly conversational vocal inflections and marvelous singing. Mason is totally convincing as the weed-smoking matriarch who follows her heart. [more]

Three Small Irish Masterpieces

March 30, 2018

It’s impossible to discuss the history of modern Irish drama without reference to William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory, and John Millington Synge, who, at the beginning of the last century, helped to found the National Theatre of Ireland. With "Three Small Irish Masterpieces," this literary trinity receives a heartfelt, if somewhat exaggerated, nod from the Irish Repertory Theatre, which, over the last few decades, has proven its own indispensability, too. [more]

Bar Mitzvah Boy

February 15, 2018

"Bar Mitzvah Boy" may not be a top-drawer Jule Styne musical, but Jack Rosenthal’s original story and David Thompson’s new book are excellently observed to have the ring of truth. The family chaos in planning the affair and problems precipitated by the young son’s behavior are sharply and shrewdly detailed enough to be absorbing in a way that all can relate to. Annette Jolles’ production for The York Theatre Company gets a great deal out of the material even in a version without the trappings of a full production. It is also a pleasant surprise to see an unfamiliar musical by major talents which fills in a gap in their careers. [more]

It’s a Wonderful Life: The 1946 Live Radio Play

December 15, 2017

As adapted for the stage by Anthony E. Palermo, it’s roughly half the length of the film. But it still tells the same story about George Bailey, who on Christmas Eve in 1946 intends to take his life, only to be saved by an angel named Clarence. While saying there’s “a Tom Sawyer quality to you, George,” Clarence still turns George around by showing him what “a different world” it is without him, as if he had never been born. And it seems to be amazingly complete--even while the focus of the presentation is on the live radio version, including a banner that says, W.I.R.T. (duh, for Irish Repertory Theatre) and several different “words from our sponsors,” such as “Lucky Strike” (“clears your lungs”) and “Carter’s Liver Pills.” [more]

Desperate Measures

October 13, 2017

While not all musicals from Shakespeare have worked and updates are particularly risky, "Desperate Measures" avoids all of the pitfalls and is a refreshing and satisfying work in its own right. The catchy score has superb songs in the vein of the Broadway western musical.  It is hoped the show has a long life beyond this production, like its young hero, in years to come. [more]

Marry Harry

May 8, 2017

The two leads David Spadora and Morgan Cowling are charming but that isn’t really enough to carry the show. The script isn’t too kind to their parents. As Big Harry, Lenny Wolpe is overbearing and possessive and as Sherri’s mom Francine, Robin Skye is controlling and possessive. Both are quite convincing and unpleasant – just as the script wants them to be. As the Village Voices, Chavez, Manocherian and Saunders demonstrate tremendous versatility playing all sorts of roles and are excellent singers. [more]

Mark Felt, Superstar

January 10, 2017

Mr. Rosenblum’s dense book is a rudimentary and repetitive serio-comic treatment imparting the minutia of that cause célèbre. In 1972, burglars connected to Republican President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign broke into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in the Watergate building complex in Washington, D.C. This resulted into a calamitous scandal and inept cover-up causing a national crisis. Rosenblum’s treatment doesn’t totally succeed at tying together all of its complicated threads. [more]

Finian’s Rainbow

November 28, 2016

Moore’s adaptation successfully uses the small, recently renovated stage of the Irish Repertory Theatre so that even with 13 actors the performance area always looks populated with the people of Rainbow Valley. James Morgan’s clever unit set is redolent of the South with its huge live oak draped above the stage. Mary Jo Dondlinger’s lighting is redolent of the warm southern sun as well as the cool evening moonlight. The four piece orchestra sits neatly tucked in the back of the stage without distracting from the performance. [more]

Cagney

April 5, 2016

Shoving a grapefruit into Mae Clarke’s face in "Public Enemy," George M. Cohan’s "Yankee Doodle Dandy" song and dance numbers for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, and the “Top of The World, Ma!” finale from "White Heat" are among the exciting factual highlights of this old-fashioned chronicle. [more]

Rothschild & Sons

October 31, 2015

The surviving original creators, book writer Sherman Yellen and lyricist Sheldon Harnick, have written a new streamlined version of the show now called Rothschild & Sons which is being given its world premiere by the York Theatre Company. With a cast of eleven (most playing multiple roles) led by Cuccioli now playing patriarch Meyer and an orchestra of three, the show is a powerful study of anti-Semitism in Europe at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century and the desire of the Rothschild family to break down both the walls of poverty and those of prejudice. While the new adaptation performed in one act is both engrossing and admirable, it may not be the definitive final version as it is devoid of humor, a necessary ingredient to make a musical popular. [more]

Cagney

June 11, 2015

Although he was probably Hollywood’s most famous tough guy, James Cagney’s life story is not as well-known as that of many other legendary movie stars. The York Theatre Company’s new musical, simply called "Cagney," hopes to do something about that. Created around the obsession of actor Robert Creighton who looks a great deal like the red-headed Irish star, this entertaining show business musical also reveals the difficult times he had both on the streets of New York and at Warner Brothers in Hollywood which typecast him and wanted him to go on making the same picture over and over.  [more]

Texas in Paris

February 13, 2015

While Alan Govenar’s "Texas in Paris" is not a musical in the traditional sense, it is definitely a concert in the literal sense. It is also an engrossing and subtle play about race relations and the misunderstandings that separate people. Under the restrained and assured direction by Akin Babatundé, the performances by Lillias White and Scott Wakefield are poignant and authentic. [more]

Da

January 23, 2015

This finely constructed memory piece is characterized by comedy and melancholy. Overcoming parental dysfunction is it’s universal theme. It’s rendered with complexity, as the characters are often shown at their most vindictive but also with their good qualities that they often repress. The dialogue is crisp and filled with mordant Irish wit. [more]