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Matthew Murphy

Matthew Murphy is a New York City-based photographer specializing in theatre and dance. http://www.murphymade.com

Curvy Widow

August 6, 2017

While the dialogue offers some stabs at humor and Opel--a first-rate comedienne of the old school--usually excels at comic timing, much of it falls flat here. Most of the 90-minute, intermission-less piece focuses, naturally enough, on Bobby’s attempts to create a new life for herself, ultimately meaning a new relationship. It’s during her second visit with the shrink that he says, “I’m making getting laid a medical directive”-- to which Bobby replies, “Can you do that?” effectively ending the scene. [more]

Miss Saigon

April 9, 2017

The scenic design with original concept by the late Adrian Vaux, production design by Totie Driver & Matt Kinley, and projections by Luke Halls is as eye-filling as a movie would be. The new helicopter scene during the evacuation of Saigon uses both scenery and video in a breathtaking stage effect. Connor makes excellent use of the cinematic and realistically three-dimensional sets in moving his crowds around to completely populate the stage picture. Bruno Poet’s lighting varies from shadowy evening scenes, to romantic moonlit ones, to blatantly lit day time scenes. [more]

Come From Away

March 16, 2017

The songs push the plot along, ranging from numbers about the locals’ dealing with valuable resources (“Blankets and Bedding”) to the quiet awe the visitors express at the local scenery (“Darkness and Trees”). “Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere” and “Something’s Missing,” eloquently deal with the short-term emotional turbulence that eventually steadied to mutual admiration and many long-term friendships. [more]

Himself and Nora

June 29, 2016

James Joyce most always put himself first, according to Jonathan Brielle, who wrote the book, music and lyrics for "Himself and Nora," (subtitled “The Greatest Love Story Never Told”), Minetta Lane Theatre’s new Off-Broadway musical. Brielle explores the narcissistic and codependent 37-year relationship between James Joyce and Nora Barnacle (who later became Joyce’s wife). For a purported love story that defined a genius and mesmerized Joyce enthusiasts for ages, the two-act musical is lightweight with minimal literary biographical details. [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]

Dear Evan Hansen

May 10, 2016

The way Mr. Levenson keeps things moving is both clever and exhausting. The songs mostly explore the inner emotional lives of the characters: “Waving through a Window” (Evan’s feelings of alienation); “Anyone Have a Map?” (frustrations of the two moms); “To Break in a Glove” (Larry Murphy’s heartbreaking song of unfulfilled paternal rituals); and the heartbreak and promise of “For Forever” which ends the show. [more]

Dance Theatre of Harlem 2016

April 14, 2016

The four works on the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s program revealed a troupe that loves to entertain and show off but one that also hasn’t quite reached a secure level of technical achievement. Fervor and personality can take a dance company only so far. Nevertheless, this is definitely a ballet company with most works featuring solid point work. [more]

The Effect

April 8, 2016

"The Effect" investigates the emotional, physical and ethical effects of drug testing, certainly a hot button issue in our time when we have come to expect a pill to solve all of our problems. The scientific portions are made human as we see them through the eyes of Connie and Tristan who must do everything at the same time as foils in the experiment. The parallel stories of test takers and warring doctors with a past history add to the visceral and intellectual pull of the play. [more]

Smart People

February 24, 2016

The satire begins early: it turns out that although the department likes having Brian doing his research proving that whites are genetically racist, they are not happy with his conclusions. Although Jackson may be the smartest doctor in the room, he has trouble working with others and bending to authority on the job. Although Valerie has a Harvard degree, she cleans houses to pay her rent which ticks off her upper middle-class mother. However, she is not pleased when she attends an audition for “Mary, the social worker” and is asked instead to read for the part of “Shlonda” from the ‘hood. Ginny finds that her therapy clients perceive her as white, but she knows that in the talk of race in America, she is invisible as race is defined as between blacks and whites in modern discourse. [more]

The Woodsman

February 15, 2016

The forest setting by Ortiz seems to envelop the audience as does the sound design which is created by the actors in tandem with violinist Naomi Florin who plays Edward W. Hardy’s melancholy original score throughout the evening. The impressive Bunraku-style puppets are the work of Ortiz who seems to be a one-man theater corporation able to do everything required himself including his co-direction with Claire Karpen. The only wrinkle is that at times it is a bit confusing as to what is happening since after the opening prologue there is no dialogue and some of the mime is ambiguous. However, the show with folk-style backwoods costumes by Molly Seidel and atmospheric lighting by Catherine Clark & Jamie Roderick is always theatrical, always hypnotic. [more]

School of Rock – The Musical

December 31, 2015

Though the stage show does not have the imitable and irrepressible Jack Black, it does have rising stars Alex Brightman and Sierra Boggess who make the roles of hero Dewey Finn and Principal Rosalie Mullins their own. The book by Julian Fellows (television’s "Downton Abbey" and the stage version of" Mary Poppins") based on the screenplay by Mike White is extremely faithful to the movie while also giving several of the students’ backstories which makes them more three-dimensional. Before the show begins, we are told by a voice-over (Webber?) that all of the students play their own instruments. [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]

Allegiance

December 4, 2015

Inspired by George Takei’s experiences in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, "Allegiance" is a sometimes moving, sometimes stodgy musical about this terrible injustice perpetrated against Japanese-Americans. One hundred and twenty thousand Japanese-American men, women and children, classified as “enemy aliens,” were forcibly removed from their homes and businesses and incarcerated under terrible, inhumane conditions, far from their West Coast homes. [more]

On Your Feet!

November 16, 2015

Sergio Trujillo’s exhilarating choreography is a ceaseless extravaganza of mostly Salsa numbers. The costumes by designer ESosa are appropriately heavy on glitz. David Rockwell’s seemingly simple and highly creative set design chiefly consists of textured white panels on which muted projections and videos are shown. Designed by Darrel Maloney, these are a captivating assemblage of palm trees, stucco houses and skies that artfully depict Cuba, Miami, and other locales. Kenneth Posner’s crisp lighting design further enhances the show’s vivid visual qualities. [more]

Trip of Love

October 26, 2015

Though it touches on complex societal issues during this turbulent time period in the United States, the show's overall lack of depth depicting these conditions relegates it to slick opulence. Such a lack of overall substance does often play well in Las Vegas or on the sea but in a midtown Manhattan theater it's a striking flaw considering the numerous other theatrical options. [more]

Clever Little Lies

October 14, 2015

Before coming to the Westside Theatre, director David Saint helmed this production at the George Street Playhouse. No stranger to DiPietro’s style (he also premiered The Toxic Avenger at George Street), Saint does an excellent job of keeping the pace up when it matters most. The physical comedy is subtle and effective, but is over-the-top in just enough places to keep the laughter going continuously. Though one can hardly call the comedy of "Clever Little Lies" 'smart'—it is more vulgar than anything—Saint employs many different tactics to elicit laughs from his audience. [more]

“Les Misérables” Revisited

October 6, 2015

Two starry new cast members add luster to the show: English musical and opera star Alfie Boe as the tragic Jean Valjean and Tony Award nominee Montego Glover as the ill-fated Fantine. Their fresh takes on these characters—their often surprising choices—are in synch with the directors’ emphasis on the inner lives of this colorful panoply of Victor Hugo’s mid-nineteenth century French characters. [more]

John

August 31, 2015

Baker fills "John" with telling details, from the food (ever hear of Sailor’s Duff?) to hidden rooms to specifics of Gettysburg, that keep the play from floating away into total surrealism. She is helped by Mimi Lien’s extraordinarily detailed set which evokes worlds within worlds with its amazing array of tchotchkes, perfectly chosen furniture, a player piano that erupts at odd moments, ceiling fans lazily, but ineffectively whirring, and a multitude of doors. Mark Barton’s atmospheric lighting is perfection. Ásta Bennie Hostetter’s costumes are well thought-out and Bray Poor’s sound design gives eerie life to the show. [more]

Doctor Zhivago

April 27, 2015

Where is John Doyle when we really need him to whip new life into a musical? [Answer: he’s directing another Broadway musical, "The Visit."] There’s a moving chamber musical hidden amidst all the incessantly dashing chorus kids, shifting scenery, smoke effects, loud explosions and eerily surreal video projections that are the raison d’être of this production from the Nobel Prize winning novel by Boris Pasternak. This more-is-more approach to the new musical "Doctor Zhivago"—written by Michael Weller (libretto), Michael Korie & Amy Powers (lyrics) and Lucy Simon (music), choreographed by Kelly Devine and directed by Des McAnuff—dulls any emotional impact the story and the characters might have evoked. [more]

An American in Paris

April 19, 2015

The director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon has re-envisioned this icon with a panache that borders on the genius, fulfilling the promise he showed with his extraordinary choreography for the 2002 "Sweet Smell of Success." This time around, from the windswept opening sequence, with its thumbnail sketch of W.W. II history to the breathlessly simple fade-out, it was clear that Wheeldon was in total command of his material, illuminating all of "An American in Paris"’ emotional twists and turns. [more]

The World of Extreme Happiness

March 16, 2015

Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s eye-opening The World of Extreme Happiness reveals the urgent problems in contemporary China in which people from rural communities who move to the cities are second class citizens but where protest is quickly stifled, where the one-child policy causes girl children and women workers to be ignored, and the vast numbers of people in the factory cities have little access to education or money. Eric Ting’s powerful co-production for Manhattan Theatre Club and the Goodman Theatre of Chicago deserves to be seen for turning contemporary social science into the stuff of drama. [more]

Long Story Short

March 11, 2015

Does love provide the strength that keeps a marriage bound, or is love fragile and, when it wanes, the cause of the failures in a partnership? Maybe it’s both? The new musical "Long Story Short," written and composed by Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda, adapted from David Schulner's play An Infinite Ache, explores this quandary artfully. Skillfully directed by Kent Nicholson, this imaginative and fresh musical chronicles the ups and downs of a 50-year relationship between an Asian American woman and a Jewish American man. This aptly named 95-minute production poetically exposes the wonder and misery of a lifetime together. [more]

City Of

February 10, 2015

Unlike Strindberg’s "Dream Play," it is not always possible tell what is real and what is dreamed from what the main characters say. Aside from the ghosts and the painting that comes to life, the additional characters (played by two actors) including a gargoyle on the top of the Cathedral of Notre Dame who has fallen in love with a pigeon, the Green Fairy that is the essence of Absinthe, the ghost of Dash’s mother, and a talking sewer rat. Along with the story of the horny curator of the Musée de l’Homme (an actual but obscure tourist site), it often feels like there are too many stories and quests going on at the same time - unless the point is that for the author Paris is a city of journeys. With much of the dialogue in poetry, "City Of" is often too precious for its own good. [more]

Every Brilliant Thing

January 9, 2015

"Every Brilliant Thing" is a wonderful evening in the theater and a reminder that though life may offer bad or unhappy episodes, that there are wonderful things to live for and new surprises every day. Making his New York debut, Jonny Donahoe proves himself to be a charismatic performer and makes this a memorable and inventive show. At 65 minutes, the show is just the right length to make its point without overstaying its welcome. [more]

Disenchanted!

December 15, 2014

“Happ’ly ever after…can be a royal pain in the ass!” sings Snow White in Disenchanted!, a pleasant musical spoof of iconic Disney princesses, that depicts them after their classic stories have ended. She, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and a number of other heroines comically complain during ninety minutes that are bright, and often entertaining, but that somewhat drag. [more]

The Village Bike

June 26, 2014

A very visceral play, The Village Bike is not for prudes; on the other hand, it should open a conversation that is long overdue in our theater concerning men and women's sexuality as it is understood today. [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]

Casa Valentina

May 12, 2014

Harvey Fierstein's Casa Valentina is absorbing theater both as a revealing look into a world unknown to most theatergoers as well as a suspenseful new story. If the play has a flaw, it is that its message is a little bit obscure [more]