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Michael Arden

A Christmas Carol (Jefferson Mays)

November 27, 2022

Visually the show pulls out all of the stops continually making stage magic. Every scene offers new scenic effects and things that appear impossible but are right there on stage before you, and disappear in a twinkling of an eye to be replaced by new wonders. Beginning with Marley’s hearse in a flashback to seven years ago, Laffrey’s designs include Scrooge’s gloomy office, Scrooge’s staircase which somehow deposits him in his even darker  bedroom on the second floor, the depressing all-boys school that Scrooge attended as a youth, Fezziwig’s warehouse (Scrooge’s first real job,) a colorful Christmas panorama filled with food and presents, the poor kitchen of the Cratchit family, the lavish dining room of his nephew Fred, and a brightly lit snow-filled cemetery. Using streaming video projection, a revolving stage and seemingly magic acts, as well as fog and snow effects, the production attempts all things that are possible on a stage. [more]

Parade

November 7, 2022

World events have inadvertently raised the significance of the New York City Center’s Annual Gala presentation of the brilliant new staging of the Jason Robert Brown/Alfred Uhry musical Parade which debuted over two decades ago.  Anti-Semitism and xenophobia have risen to epidemic levels.  This moving dramatization of actual events drives home the inevitable results of such unreasonable hatred. "Parade" is the gripping story of Leo Frank (Ben Platt), a Brooklyn Jew, who moved to Atlanta, Georgia for a better job.  He married a Southern Jew, Lucille (Micaela Diamond), whose southern version of Judaism confuses him. Frank was the manager of a pencil factory and was accused of raping and murdering a 14-year-old white employee, Mary Phegan (Erin Rose Doyle), on Confederate Day, 1915. This almost operatic musical drama impeccably depicts how Phegan’s death led to a flowering of the anti-Semitism (twisted to the prosecution's benefit, horribly during Frank’s trial) and the KKK. [more]

King Lear

May 7, 2019

As the elderly king of Britain who deludedly decides to give up his kingdom to his three daughters, Goneril and Regan, the two older married ones, and Cordelia, his younger unmarried daughter, in exchange for their regaling him before his court with how much they love him, the 83-year-old Jackson dressed in Ann Roth’s fitted tuxedo and with a severe masculine haircut would seem believable casting. However in the first half of the evening (Acts I-III) which take about two hours, Jackson is nothing but haughty, sarcastic and arrogant, with little or no variety. In the production’s second half when the king who has been turned out of the castles of both married daughters (Cordelia having left the country to marry the King of France), Jackson seems mad but wise and more compassionate, turning the king’s anger on himself, but it is too little, too late. [more]

Once on This Island

December 7, 2017

Director Arden, a 2005 Juilliard graduate, has impressed with his reinvention of the 2015 Forest of Arden/ Deaf West Theatre revival of "Spring Awakening" for which he was nominated for a Tony Award. Among his clever additions to "Once on This Island" are the use of a chorus of eight to play the Storytellers who relate the tale through Ahrens’ book and lyrics, a new sonic palette for Flaherty’s calypso-tinged score with musical instruments made from found objects, and a set which puts us on the shores of the very island where the story takes place with the audience sitting on all four sides of this newly created beach. His young lovers Ti Moune and Daniel seem a good deal younger than before, making the story that much more romantic and ultimately more tragic. [more]

Spring Awakening

October 9, 2015

Aside from its notable staging, this production is also receiving a great deal off attention for facilitating the Broadway debut of Marlee Matlin, the only deaf Academy Award-winner to date. While her role as several of the town’s adult women is not a particularly weighty one, she imbues them with her characteristic fervor. Sandra Mae Frank and Katie Boeck work well together to share the character Wendla; Boeck’s voice fluidly pairs with Frank’s signing to separate the inner turmoil and outer façade of a character whose mother refuses to listen. Likewise notable is the always-wonderful Broadway and television veteran Krysta Rodriguez, whose portrayal (both sung and signed) of Ilse, a homeless bohemian clinging to her sanity, is uniquely dark and dangerous. [more]

ON THE TOWN with Chip Deffaa, March 31st, 2015

April 1, 2015

Of course, not everybody in the arts who has potential will stick with it. There’s a high rate of attrition in the arts. The stresses and strains of pursuing a career will be too much for many people. One must have not just talent, but energy and drive and determination, plus a certain stubborn kind of stick-to-it quality that is simply all-too-rare. And you also have to be a risk-taker, with an instinct for knowing when to move out of your comfort zone and take the chance on something that excites you, even it may appear risky. [more]