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Peter Hylenski

Merrily We Roll Along

February 27, 2019

Usually considered one of Sondheim’s lesser musicals, albeit with one of his best scores--and needless to say, that’s saying a lot--this production provides a heft and a story that are sorely lacking in previous versions. There is no denying or gainsaying its power to impress, as each and every song comes through with its capacity to build characters and tell stories. If the stories are less than satisfying in earlier productions, that’s due more to bookwriter George Furth (adapting the original play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart) than to Sondheim or to his other collaborators, each of who has provided an impeccable contribution to the current enterprise. [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]

Rocky from Chip Deffaa’s July 17, 2014 column

July 17, 2014

A boxing musical? I just couldn't see it. Nor could I imagine there'd be an audience for this on Broadway. Nor could I imagine that I–who's never seen a boxing match in my life or had any interest in doing so–would enjoy such a Broadway show. But I was wrong. Thomas Meehan and Sylvester Stallone, who wrote the script (based on Stallone's famed MGM/United Artists motion picture), have done a terrific job of good old-fashioned storytelling, making us care about the fate of an underdog, a down-on-his-luck boxer. And director Alex Timbers has staged this with enormous flair. [more]

Motown: The musical

April 18, 2013

In this huge and loving tribute to himself, his music, his stars, Berry Gordy is producing and writing an overstuffed, overcharged, oversized musical in thirty-six settings, fifty-eight songs, twenty-two musicians, forty-one performers, to an additional complement of twenty-nine production entities, and three producers, one of which, of course, is Berry Gordy. [more]