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James Morgan

Enter Laughing the Musical

May 27, 2019

As David, Chris Dwan does not make one forget the inimitable Grisetti who spun every moment into a comic turn. However, Dwan is charming as the undaunted hero who must deal with problems behind his ken but always comes up with a possible solution even if it doesn’t work out. David Schramm’s alcoholic and hammy Harrison Marlowe is not quite as clipped as that of the late George S. Irving whose signature role this became but his sarcasm and slow burns are still entertaining. Though Farah Alvin’s Angela Marlowe is not as affected as her predecessor as the predatory performer, she still is delicious as an actress who falls in love with all of her co-stars. [more]

Christmas in Hell

December 19, 2018

The holiday season is in for an irreverent satirizing in Gary Apple’s musical comedy "Christmas in Hell," a rude and entertaining fable for adults. With book, music and lyrics by Apple, a writer/producer for television, the show now being produced by The York Theatre Company is a diverting antidote to all the mindlessly clichéd holiday cheer that is everywhere. With some clever lyrics, hummable tunes and a colorful cast of characters, "Christmas in Hell" is a delightful little musical parody which is a change of pace for the season before us. It does require a good deal of suspension of belief of both kinds. [more]

A Child’s Christmas in Wales (2018)

December 9, 2018

It’s a very presentational show. The six ensemble members comprise a sort of group narrator, working in tandem to relate the memories of the Thomas character for the audience—sometimes sorting out how it all really happened and sometimes taking on the roles of characters from the memories. Nicholas Barasch plays wide-eyed “Dylan,” who is totally swept up in holiday magic. Naomi Louisa O’Connell is his mother and Dewey Caddell his father. Extended family and friends are played by Margaret Dudasik, Polly McKie and Ashley Robinson. [more]

Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade

November 9, 2018

There are some fine elements in the portrayal. Arrow’s Kennedy-clan dialect seems believable—though maybe slightly over-baked at points (especially when, late in the play, he sings bits of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”). Happily, he is able to suggest Kennedy’s deep compassion for forgotten, disadvantaged Americans. But because we don’t see him interacting one-on-one with other characters, he’s hampered in his ability to make this quality fully evident. [more]

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever

July 9, 2018

Charlotte Moore’s version streamlines the plot somewhat from Lerner’s original by eliminating Daisy’s fiancé for whom she wants to quit smoking as well as a subplot with Greek shipping magnate Themistocles Kriakos who wishes to fund a study to prove that reincarnation is real. Mark’s brother Dr. Paul Bruckner becomes his colleague Dr Conrad Fuller in this latest version, and the clinic is no longer a family business. The songs, “Tosy and Cosh” and “Don’t Tamper with My Sister,” have been cut, shortening the 18th century story, and two songs added from the National Tour subsequent to the original Broadway run: “Solicitor’s Song” and Daisy’s “He Wasn’t You,” a female version of Edward’s later “She Wasn’t You.” Finally, “Who Is There Among Us Who Knows” (written for the film version but left on the cutting room floor) opens the second act instead of Kriakos’ “When I’m Being Born Again.” [more]

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]