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Matthew Murphy

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

The Wrong Man

October 10, 2019

"The Wrong Man" is a new musical by multi-platinum songwriter Ross Golan with "Hamilton"’s director Thomas Kail. Like "Hamilton," it began as a concept album and grew into a stage performance. Unlike Hamilton‘s epic sweep of history, this subject is contemporary and has a narrower focus, following the fortunes of one man, Duran, who is down on his luck in Reno, Nevada. The intimate setting of The Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space’s Newman Mills Theater is a good place to show off the production. [more]

Derren Brown: Secret on Broadway

September 20, 2019

The shaven-headed, athletic and charismatic Derren Brown is a well-known personality in the United Kingdom due to his award-winning theatrical and television presentations. With his resounding accented voice, engaging showmanship and mystical talents, he commands the stage while appearing in a sleek dark suit, a flowing mystical robe and evening clothes. Mr. Brown discloses that he struggled with his homosexuality before coming out at the age of 31.  This revelation enhances his witty persona, along with other personal data imparted along the way. [more]

Broadway Bounty Hunter

August 7, 2019

Composer-lyricist Joe Inconis’ follow up to his teen favorite, "Be More Chill," is not only a showcase for musical comedy actress Annie Golden but a tribute to the Blaxploitation and Martial Arts movies of the 1970’s and 1980’s. While "Broadway Bounty Hunter" is very entertaining, it might have been a better show if had not been so anxious to not be a parody or a satire. Written by Iconis and longtime collaborators Lance Rubin and Jason Sweettooth Williams, energetic cast, fully attuned with their concept has been directed and choreographed with fierce energy by Jennifer Werner who has previous created the dances for five of Iconis’ last six shows. [more]

Rock of Ages

July 31, 2019

"Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard in a smashing live rendition accompanies a lusty production number at a seedy Los Angeles strip club with scantily clad pole dancers and creepy patrons. It’s a splashy set piece in this uproarious Off-Broadway revival commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Broadway hit "Rock of Ages. " It’s also notable because previously Def Leppard wouldn’t allow their songs to be included in this 1980’s hit singles jukebox musical. “Rock of Ages” in a recorded version is heard after the show ends and the audience leaves. [more]

Beetlejuice

May 22, 2019

Not all cult movies need to be made into musicals, particularly those that are dependent on special effects which the cinema does better than the stage. This is demonstrated by the new Broadway musical based on "Beetlejuice," the Tim Burton horror-comedy-fantasy. This theme park-type show is visually a spectacle with a set that does all sort of tricks and changes, but as the adage goes, you can’t go home singing the scenery. And the score by Australian composer/performer Eddie Perfect (whose only other American score has been "King Kong the Musical") is eminently forgettable. In the title role, Alex Brightman, who was charismatic in a similar role in "The School of Rock," is so over-the top that he becomes tiresome very quickly. To paraphrase Mae West, too much of a good thing is not wonderful. [more]

Tootsie

May 7, 2019

Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels still has most of his/her friends and professional acquaintances from the movie version with some new twists:  Jeff Slater, his playwright roommate (a wonderfully sardonic Andy Grotelueschen) having difficulty setting words to paper; former girlfriend, hyper-paranoid unemployed actress Sandy Lester (Sarah Stiles, doing mega-ditzy with all pistons firing); leading lady Julie Nichols (Lilli Cooper, lovely, good voice, but not as romantically vivid as she should be); clueless show director Ron Carlisle who’s not quite as sexist as in the film; and, finally, lascivious actor Max Van Horn (John Behlmann, who nearly steals the show with his brilliantly acrobatic machinations), now a dull-witted, malaprop-spouter who falls hard for the older Dorothy. [more]

Hadestown

April 29, 2019

The dazzling Broadway production of Anais Mitchell’s musical "Hadestown" proves director/developer Rachel Chavkin to be a creative genius. If you had not known it after she fitted her theater-in-the round production of "Natasha and Pierre and the Comet of 1812" into a Broadway theater, it is even more obvious now. This time she has turned her 2016 New York Theatre Workshop staging in the round into a production suitable for Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre with its proscenium stage without losing the sense that the musical takes place in many different places. Along with gripping choreography and movement from David Neumann and an onstage jazz band of six, the show simply takes your breath away, telling the joint stories of Orpheus and Eurydice, and Hades and Persephone. [more]

Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations

March 30, 2019

"Ain't Too Proud to Beg," “Get Ready,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “Since I Lost My Baby,” “You're My Everything” and of course “Papa Was a Rollin' Stone” are among the show’s more than 30 numbers. Besides those by The Temptations, there’s a choice selection of songs by their contemporaries such as The Supremes. All of them are rousingly performed by the orchestra and the company under the direction of conductor Kenny Seymour. [more]

Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish

February 23, 2019

The property is now more than a half-century old. But this production makes it seem as though the 1964 iteration were merely an English-language version of a classic from even longer ago. There’s a greater feeling of immediacy than perhaps ever before. Hearing the characters speak and sing in the tongue that their real-life 1905 contemporaries would have used is deeply moving. What a shame that so many speakers of Yiddish from decades past never got the chance to experience the musical in this guise. [more]

King Kong

November 20, 2018

Designed by Johnny Tilders, the puppet Kong is phenomenal, a 20-foot tall, 2,000 pound marionette operated by the ten-person King’s Company, members of the cast assigned to operating the arms, legs and body of Kong, with the facial expressions controlled by exacting machinery that endows this artificial creation with real emotions.  The roaring and other vocalizations are amplifications of the offstage voice of Jon Hoche.  The results are not just fascinating, but eminently entertaining and even moving. [more]

Pretty Woman: The Musical

August 26, 2018

With Tony nominations for "Rocky," "On the Twentieth Century" and "Groundhog Day," 44-year-old Andy Karl’s charisma and considerable talents have been well demonstrated. In "Pretty Woman: The Musical" as the aloof Edward, Mr. Karl exhibits what magnetism he can in this detached role while being saddled with some dreary songs. Karl and Ms. Banks admirably soldier on together in a losing battle. [more]

Children of a Lesser God

April 16, 2018

A regular on the television series "Dawson’s Creek" and currently appearing on "The Affair," the affable Joshua Jackson plays James. Mr. Jackson’s talents are not showcased in this production. Jackson’s speech pattern is monotonous and his lack of sensuality makes the attraction between him and Sarah less than palpable. He gets through the role with professionalism but with little impact. Others in the cast make up for this void but the vacuum of implausibility looms. [more]

Rocktopia

March 28, 2018

Eleanor Roosevelt gets the biggest round of applause during the projected cultural icons slideshow as Queen’s “We Are The Champions” is histrionically performed in "Rocktopia." It’s a hokey musical extravaganza that mashes together classical, rock and opera. Singalongs, coerced clapping, dancing in the seats and standing ovations abound. The cheerfully innocuous entertainment level is comparable to that of a bland PBS pledge break concert. [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]

The Parisian Woman

December 12, 2017

Inspired by Henri Becque’s notorious 1885 "La Parisienne," credited as the first Naturalistic French play, Willimon has taken its plot, characters and themes of sex, adultery, betrayal and power. To this he has added modern politics as it is being practiced in Trump’s Washington. Tom, a high-powered Beltway tax lawyer who works with both Democrats and Republicans, and Chloe, his socialite wife, are in an open marriage. While she is attempting to break up with her lover Peter, a banker, Tom asks for his help in getting the nomination for an appointment on the circuit court though he has never been a judge before. When it looks like Tom is no longer in the running, Chloe decides to act on her own and approaches her new friend Jeanette, the President’s choice for Chair of the Federal Reserve, a staunch Republican power broker and contributor. How this plays out shows the ins and outs of Washington negotiating. While none of this is particularly new, Willimon uses some of the latest contemporary wrinkles. [more]

Latin History for Morons

November 21, 2017

After his teenaged son is called a “beaner” by one of his classmates at a WASPy private school, Leguizamo is inspired to educate the rest of the United States about the overlooked achievements of Latin culture. This is done as a wild, stand-up comedy routine where the audience is directly engaged and occasionally heckled, and with a superior theatrical presentation. [more]

M. Butterfly

November 15, 2017

Inspired by the true case of an affair between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and Chinese opera singer Shi Pei Pu from 1960 – 1986 which led to a trial for espionage, Hwang’s problem in 2017 was that the story has become so well-known that the reveal at the end of the play is no longer a surprise. As a result, Hwang has worked to come up with new elements taken from the true case to make the play more startling for audiences that already know the tale. Director Julie Taymor who has in the past done wonderful work with exotic material ("The Transposed Heads," "The Green Bird," "The Lion King") does not give the play as much help as it needs, making it much too literal for its own good. [more]

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]
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