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Leon Rothenberg

Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope

July 28, 2018

This plotless, mostly sung-through exhibition conveys the tumultuous 20th century urban African-American experience through Micki Grant’s dazzling score for which she wrote both the music and lyrics. “Universe in Mourning,” “Harlem Streets,” “Ghetto Life” and “Billie Holiday Blues” are some of the titles. [more]

Songs for a New World

July 2, 2018

The unison of Jason Robert Brown’s accomplished score, Kate Whoriskey’s exciting direction and Rennie Harris’s vibrant choreography make this New York City Center Encores! Off-Center’s revival of his 1995 debut show "Songs for a New World," a dynamic theatrical experience. Mr. Brown’s surprise appearance at the piano to play a song in the second act was electrifying. [more]

Sweet Charity

December 28, 2016

The real reason to see the new "Sweet Charity," its third major New York revival, is for Sutton Foster’s bravura performance. Aside from nightclub singer Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, Foster has usually played innocent, clean-cut young women caught up in unusual situations. Here she again plays to type – but with a difference: Charity Hope Valentine works as a taxi dancer in a New York dance hall, a sleazy environment. However, she keeps her infectious innocence and her indomitable spirit despite one unfortunate romantic encounter after the other due to her gullibility. Under Leigh Silverman’s direction, Foster may just be the most convincing actress to ever play Charity. [more]

Rancho Viejo

December 8, 2016

LeFranc’s dialogue is a marvelous blend of the realistic and mundane. The well-delineated main characters all express themselves with true to life simplicity. Plot developments are the combination of subtle details that gradually do build to a satisfying resolution. It all has the sense of John Cheever’s suburban short stories where the darkness behind bonhomie is revealed. Swimming pools are mentioned in passing. [more]

Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

July 30, 2016

The charming and charismatic Broadway leading man Santino Fontana performs the role of Elliot Rosewater with as much commitment as if he were playing J. Pierrepont Finch. Mr. Fontana’s performance is the magnetic anchor of the show. Kilgore Trout is a loony science fiction author of 117 novels and over 2000 short stories and is a recurring character in Vonnegut’s novels. Here he appears briefly near the end of the show wearing a hunting cap and rising from a wheelchair. That he is played by the legendary 85-year-old James Earl Jones with his thundering voice, joyous presence and sly comic timing is wonderfully jolting. Mr. Jones also is the narrator. [more]

Bridgman|Packer Dance

July 20, 2016

At times, Hopper’s paintings—mostly the moody ones—were inhabited by the dancers who took on the iconic, emotionally laden poses so brilliantly painted by Hopper, helped by Frank DenDanto III’s fine lighting. Outdoor scenes, images of isolated houses and rows of urban buildings added to the complexity. Endlessly long corridors, down which the dancers wandered, appeared as the soundtrack (by Scott Lehrer and Leon Rothenberg) alluded to city sounds, distant trains, conversations and nature. The two dancers were never eclipsed by the set and projections, their emotional states always in flux and always crystal clear. The effect was often breathtakingly and movingly beautiful. [more]

Out of the Mouths of Babes

July 7, 2016

At one point stumbling around in a sleep mask and wearing a colorful nightgown, the 88 year-old Estelle Parsons has a field day as the 88 year-old Evelyn, a former journalist for The International Herald Tribune. Ms. Parsons delightfully barrels through the play growling, cursing, and exhibiting vibrant physicality. Being the skillful old pro that she is, Parsons has the technique to tone it down when needed. [more]

Turn Me Loose

May 20, 2016

Wearing a black suit, white shirt and black tie, the mature Morton with his expressive face, smooth resonant voice and fluid physicality, vividly captures the essence of “The black Lenny Bruce” at various stages of his life. He forcefully addresses and engages the audience while at a microphone during his act, backstage, sitting near the front row of the stage or walking through the theater. It is one of those memorably electrifying performances to be treasured. [more]

1776

April 3, 2016

The prime instigator of the events, John Adams, was rotund and abrasive. Here he is played by the handsome Santino Fontana who was Prince Charming in the recent Broadway production of Cinderella. Though Mr. Fontana bears no physical resemblance to Adams he conveys his rage, frustration and humanity with his dynamic performance. Fontana’s soaring voice captures the emotion and humor of the score, particularly on "Is Anybody There?" [more]