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Jerry Zaks

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]

Mrs. Doubtfire

December 12, 2021

Broadway fixture Rob McClure occasionally channels Robin Williams with sparkling riffs and simulated ad libs but makes the roles of Daniel and Mrs. Doubtfire his own and each distinctive especially with his trilling Scottish burr. With his commanding singing, dancing and acting talents, Mr. McClure is a stage marvel up there with Jim Dale, effortlessly veering from comic to poignant. Jenn Gambatese is delightful as Miranda, finely balancing seriousness with madcap as the pragmatic wife. As the children, Analise Scarpaci, Jake Ryan Flynn and Avery Sell all offer appealing characterizations. Brad Oscar is uproarious as always as Daniel’s brother. As his fierce husband, J. Harrison Ghee is magnetically hilarious. Peter Bartlett scores as a weird over the hill children’s television host. The animated Charity Angél Dawson’s child welfare official is a grand take on bureaucratic officiousness. In the brief role of a television network executive, Jodi Kimura is wickedly deadpan par excellence. [more]

My Circle in the Square

May 6, 2020

“Romeo and Juliet” at this unique theater was the first Broadway show I saw. Rex Harrison, George C. Scott and Brian Bedford were also memorable there. [more]

Nantucket Sleigh Ride

March 31, 2019

John Guare’s career as a playwright has had three stages. His early plays were examples of Theater of the Absurd with an American accent. Later his plays became more realistic, sometimes based on a true story or historic characters. In his new play "Nantucket Sleigh Ride" now at Lincoln Center Theater’s Mitzi E. Newhouse, he has returned to his absurdist roots with a wild comedy, configured in the form of a memory play by a former playwright which returns him to the summer of 1975. With a cast led by Broadway stars John Larroquette, Will Swenson and Douglas Sills, the play initially has a fascinating premise but goes off the deep end in its second half. Don’t blame the actors who work very hard to try to keep the play on the rails. [more]

Meteor Shower

December 27, 2017

Steve Martin’s old/new wonderful comedy, "Meteor Shower," is about two California couples getting together for the first time--again, and again, and again. Like "Groundhog Day," it keeps starting all over again, with ensuing variations. And in the course of its brief, 80-minute, intermission-less duration, the couples have exchanged more than just words and ideas. By the end, they seem to have exchanged their personalities as well. The passive Corky has become more aggressive, and the overly assertive Laura has become less sure of herself. Similar reversals could be said about their respective husbands, Norm and Gerald. As Norm even says of Gerald, he’s “kind of two people.” [more]

A Bronx Tale

December 14, 2016

On Beowulf Boritt’s set of three apartment towers of fire escapes and store fronts, the musical begins with a doo-wop group singing a cappella in close harmony under a Belmont Avenue sign, setting a properly nostalgic mood. The musical follows the plotline of the original. The main character, the Chazz stand-in, is young Calogero, first seen as a youngster (a wonderfully unaffected Hudson Loverro) and then as a young man (handsome and passionate Bobby Conte Thornton), whose father Lorenzo (Richard H. Blake, totally believable) is a hard-working, honest bus driver and whose mother is a housewife Rosina (Lucia Giannetta who makes the most of a small part). [more]

Fiorello!

September 24, 2016

Under Bob Moss’ vigorous and energetic direction, the cast of 20 young actors grab hold of the show and never let up for a moment playing a multitude of colorful New York types with energy and verve. The musical numbers are excitingly staged with excellent period choreography by Michael Callahan. In the title role, Austin Scott Lombardi, making his Off Broadway debut, is a forceful and charismatic presence as the lawyer who is always on the right side of every issue and never takes no for an answer. As his love interest Thea, the beautiful Italian American from Trieste, Rebecca Brudner is a charming presence, impressively maintaining her Italian accent even during her musical numbers. Katie Birenboim obtains our sympathy as Fiorello’s long-suffering secretary with her wry view of the world. Chelsea Cree Groen and Dan Cassin are an engaging if unlikely romantic couple as the savvy sweatshop seamstress and the dim-witted cop who arrests her best friend for picketing. [more]

Shows for Days

July 13, 2015

The production, directed with oddly erratic pacing by the experienced Jerry Zaks, stars the imperious Patti LuPone as the acidly ambitious Irene, the doyenne of a theatrical troupe in Reading, Pennsylvania, in the early Seventies. Wide-eyed, always ebullient Michael Urie, as Car, Beane’s stand-in, becomes her acolyte/scene painter/receptionist/new playwright in the process of discovering a world his suburban existence never hinted at. He is the author’s glib stand-in who keeps the audience in the loop with apt descriptions, editorial comments and sexual confessions. [more]

Little Shop of Horrors

November 28, 2003

Foster, recently of "Urinetown," is terrific as the Faustian nebbish who sells his soul to win the girl he loves but, mostly, for riches. Butler holds her own and more (for those who cherish the stage and screen performance of Ellen Greene), as Audrey. Bartlett zeros in on Mushnik (shades of Zero Mostel in his performance) until the plant zeros in on him. DeQuina Moore, Trisha Jeffrey, and Carla J. Hargrove, are delicious as the perky girl-group and urchins that sing those tight vocal arrangements by Robert Billig and cavort to Kathleen Marshall's delightful choreography. Bon appetit! [more]