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Jefferson Mays

The Music Man

February 22, 2022

Because of changing social mores, some Broadway musicals are assumed to make audiences uncomfortable today. Take for example Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "Carousel" whose protagonist is a wife-beater. The recent revival did everything in its power to mitigate this problem but did not succeed. Now we have the long awaited revival of Meredith Willson’s "The Music Man" starring film megastar Hugh Jackman as Professor Harold Hill and two-time Tony Award-winner Sutton Foster as Marian Paroo, the librarian and music teacher. The problem the director and producers had with this classic piece of Americana, set in 1912, is that the hero Professor Hill is a con-artist and a serial seducer with whom we are supposed to be sympathetic. However, in 2022 this is an obstacle in an era when lovable rogues are not acceptable as heroes. As a solution, Jackman has been directed by Jerry Zaks to play Harold Hill as low-key and muted as he possibly can. What this does is straitjackets Jackman’s personal charm and charisma which he normally has in spades. The result is an undercooked Music Man even though it has been given a big, expensive production – six Tony Award winners on stage and six in the production team - maybe the starriest cast in New York right now. [more]

Oslo

May 4, 2017

The clarity of this new play by J.T. Rogers does not only rely on the smart yet surefire way it’s written, but also on the masterful staging by Bartlett Sher, who, after recent productions of both "South Pacific" and "The King and I," is no stranger to directing gargantuan shows at Lincoln Center. Given its subject--the Oslo Accord or peace treaty between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) in 1993--Oslo is ultimately, an enormous play. But it is told in intimate terms. [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]

Oslo

July 26, 2016

Bartlett Sher complements Rogers by punctuating the play with visual puns that substantially add to the drama and importance of the enfolding events. A dinner party at Mona and Larsen’s home is disturbed by two phone calls, ringing at the same time. Larsen fields a call from Israel and Mona takes a call from the P.L.O. Phone cords or wires are crossed, as Larsen and Mona exchange mouthpieces and try to arrange meetings and facilitate a place and time for the negotiations in Norway. [more]

Editor’s Notes: 2014 Tonys Wrapup

June 12, 2014

Broadway had its big night when the 68th Annual Tony Awards, presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, were given out at Radio City Music Hall hosted by the genial and charming Hugh Jackman for the fourth time. One of several of the evening's surprises was the four minute opening number in which Jackman hopped from the street to the stage to backstage and back on stage again, recreating Bobby Van's iconic number from the 1953 MGM musical, Small Town Girl, which went unidentified in the course of the evening. [more]

Editor’s Notes: The 2014 Tony Season Heats Up

May 16, 2014

his year's Tony Awards will go to the music hall murder mystery, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder (Best Musical) and All the Way, Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Schenkkan's LBJ play, All the Way (Best Play). [more]

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

December 29, 2013

Alexander Dodge's Edwardian sets which appear inside a reproduction of Pollock's Toy Theater are always delightful. Linda Cho has created an enchanting collection of costumes from those for all of Mays' transformations into the D'Ysquiths to the women's lovely and seductive gowns. The amusing projection design is the work of Aaron Rhyne. Jonathan Tunick's melodic orchestrations are always faithful to its Edwardian period and its music hall roots. Credit director Tresnjak, artistic director of Hartford Stage, now making his Broadway debut, with keeping this confection airborne throughout the evening, including when stretching credulity to the limit. [more]