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John Doyle

Carmen Jones

July 1, 2018

Unlike the musicals "Rent" (an update on Puccini’s "La Boheme"), and "Miss Saigon' (inspired by Puccini’s "Madame Butterfly") both of which had all new music by other composers for their contemporary stories, "Carmen Jones" uses the original Bizet score. However, it is not simply an English translation. Hammerstein has written all new lyrics to place the story in a W.W. II Southern community (possibly North Carolina) and with the characters ending up in Chicago for the denouement. While "Carmen Jones" was a smash hit originally running for 503 performances at the Broadway Theatre during the war years, some like then critic James Baldwin found the dialect that Hammerstein had used for his African-American characters both embarrassing and demeaning, and the show has not had a New York revival until now. Notwithstanding, the first London production in 1991-92 was also a tremendous success at the Old Vic Theatre with a mix of both opera and theater stars in the cast. [more]

Fire and Air

February 4, 2018

Though the production has been designed by its director, John Doyle, there is no scenery to speak of, except for a gold framed mirror on the rear wall, another framed mirror angled and dangling above it, and five gold chairs. It all suggests the opulence for which Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes were known. Opulent, too, are the costumes designed by Ann Hould-Ward with everyone clad in black except for Nijinsky who is in colorful and playful ballet costumes. [more]

Twelfth Night, or What You Will (Fiasco Theater)

December 21, 2017

While not as memorable as several previous Fiasco Theater productions, this "Twelfth Night" takes a while to get where it is going. After winding up the plot in the first half, it settles down to sparkling comedy in its second. A bare-bones production, it focuses attention on the language and the music rather than the usually rich trappings. It is an easy production to follow without being distracted by extraneous interpretations or ideas. [more]

As You Like It (CSC)

October 2, 2017

Known as the Shakespeare play with the most song lyrics, the production also includes a deliciously bouncy new score by Stephen Schwartz in different musical styles from the 1920’s – 1950’s, including setting some of Orlando’s mash notes to Rosalind which are usually spoken in verse. The musical numbers are mostly reassigned to the musical theater veterans like de Shields and Stillman who plays an onstage, upright piano, with Leenya Rideout on violin and double bass, and other members of the cast occasionally joining in on guitar and triangle. All of this adds to the festive, light-hearted atmosphere. Originally announced as a Jazz Age interpretation, that concept seems to have gone by the wayside. [more]

Pacific Overtures

May 23, 2017

The playing space designed by Doyle is a narrow white runway with a stool at one end and at the other, an archway created by continuing the flooring into the air on which Japanese writing appears as on a banner. The audience sits in stadium-type seating on either side of the playing space. Eschewing pageantry, the production puts the cast in very bland outfits of black, grey, white, blue or beige (costumes by Ann Hould-Ward), adding fabric or robes when absolutely necessary. The lighting by Jane Cox occasionally bathes the stage in either red or blue mood lights. [more]

Ernest Shackleton Loves Me

May 12, 2017

McCollum is both charming and charismatic playing among other characters the self-entitled and irresponsible Bruce, the hippie techie Sal, Kat’s spaced-out boss Madison, and the intrepid and heroic Shackleton, although at first it is not obvious that he is all of these characters. It is a bravura performance showing tremendous range as he makes each one entirely different. Vigoda is another story. Her Kat is plucky but is mainly a device to get Shackleton to tell his story. We never learn much about her and she never changes as the adventure unfolds. Her violin playing is excellent but it is a bit of a distraction from her other activities in the musical. [more]

Dead Poets Society

November 22, 2016

That sequence is just one of the highlights of John Doyle’s commanding direction. Best known for his vibrant minimalist approach to musicals, Mr. Doyle brings that precise and visually expressive focus to this play. The cast of ten is expertly placed and moved around the relatively bare and spacious stage creating tension, excitement and striking tableaus that all connect to the story. There are also many presentational flourishes. [more]

2016 Tony Awards Bestow Much Love on “Hamilton”

June 13, 2016

Although "Hamilton" had been nominated for 16 awards in 13 categories, it failed to break the record of Mel Brooks’ "The Producers" which remains the all-time winner with a total of 12. Hamilton took all of the top musical awards including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical (Thomas Kail, previously nominated for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights) except for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical which went to British actress Cynthia Erivo. (Making her Broadway debut, Erivo was reprising her role as Celie Harris in "The Color Purple" from the 2013 Menier Chocolate Factory production re-envisioned by John Doyle.) Star Miranda won his second and third Tonys with his awards for Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theater and Best Book of a Musical. He previously won for Best Score with his 2008 Broadway musical, In the Heights. [more]

Peer Gynt

May 31, 2016

As with many CSC productions, the modern dress costumes (here designed by Ann Hould-Ward) are entirely in black and white. A small handful of props are used (a tin of buttons, an onion) but the production is basically reduced to its dialogue and story. Since there are no breaks of any kind, the scenes segue one into another without transitions. As a result the audience has to stay focused on the play or it finds itself somewhere new and doesn’t know how it arrived there. The lighting design by Jane Cox alternates between light and dark without creating much atmosphere on the empty stage. [more]

The Color Purple

December 19, 2015

Playwright Marsha Norman’s book brilliantly and very faithfully streamlines and extracts the events and themes of the novel and film. These include racism, sexism, self-esteem and same-sex attraction. In addition, Ms. Norman created the clever device of three gossiping church ladies who appear throughout and briskly impart exposition. Her work swiftly and skillfully renders this sprawling tale into a contained and emotionally involving narrative. [more]

The Visit

April 24, 2015

The illustrious Chita Rivera appears in an elegant floor length white dress and bedecked with jewels. The grande dame’s presence electrifies the audience. Unfortunately, with little to work with, she postures and delivers McNally’s lines the best she can. Along with co-star Roger Rees as Anton Schell, her lover from the old days, she breathes some life into the song, “You, You, You.” When she dances, the ball is back in her court. There is a magnificent moment when she dances with her younger self (Michelle Veintimilla). Sensitively choreographed by Daniele, they do a sweet dream-like duet with grace and passion, the highlight of the evening. [more]

Allegro

December 2, 2014

"Allegro" was inspired by Thornton Wilder's Our Town which also uses no scenery and uses the actors as a chorus commenting on the action. Aside from the actors all playing stringed instruments when the show begins (as well as other instruments in the course of the show such as piano, clarinets, oboe, etc.) in Mary-Mitchell Campbell's folksy new orchestrations, they remain on stage throughout as they both narrate and give advice to its hero Joseph Taylor, Jr. [more]

Irma La Douce

June 1, 2014

Alas, by intermission many in the audience were asking each other: this was a Broadway smash? From Encores! we have come to expect Champagne, and this was a dreary vin ordinaire, a bit pale and a bit stale. [more]

Company

December 28, 2006

Raul Esparza, the dynamic young actor who made great impressions in such not so great shows as Taboo and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang , plays Robert, whose tainted attitudes about attachment and commitment to women, and specifically to his three concurrent girl friends, appear the direct result of observing his friends' disintegrating relationships. Esparza delivers the insecurities of his character with a brio and confidence that also drives his two big songs "Marry Me a Little" (not in the original show, but restored here as it was in the earlier revival) and "Being Alive." Pivotal as he is, Robert often stands at the outside of his friends' lives as they are revealed in a series of skittish skits. [more]

Sweeney Todd

November 28, 2005

Doyle's innovative approach dispenses with set changes while placing the action in a black and white arena that suggests a dreary psychiatric ward. The story begins with a terrified young man in a straitjacket surrounded by people in white robes. As he sings the musical's opening words "Attend the tale of Sweeny Todd," we are summoned into his disturbing world. There is no turning back. The effect was as if someone had snapped a whip and commanded our attention. [more]