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Walt Spangler

Our Lady of 121st Street

June 3, 2018

The current staging of "Our Lady" at The Pershing Square Signature Center, directed by Phylicia Rashad, magically now comes across as an addled, profane sitcom.  It’s entertaining and at times moving, but the real magic is that the very same words can be tended by a solid director—this one obviously experienced in sitcoms—and refresh a theatrical experience so completely.  Rashad has shown that scathing can be scathingly funny.  This time I left laughing. [more]

Escape to Margaritaville

March 29, 2018

The ups and downs of the road to true romance provide the show with its ties to the Buffett songs.  Tully opens the show with “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Boat,” to show his romantic nature and “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” to reveal his easygoing philosophy of life.  Similarly, Rachel offers her story in “It’s My Job,” and romance blossoms when she sings “Three Chords” (the new Jimmy Buffet song) with Tully as he teaches her to play the guitar. Tammy begins to fall for Brick with their sardonic “We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About” and cements their love with “Come Monday.” Of course, there is the title song “Margaritaville,” Buffett’s biggest hit.  The songs are written in various styles ranging from pop to calypso to reggae and are meant to incite the audience to sing along which they are sometimes actually prompted to do. [more]

Linda

March 13, 2017

A revolving stage permits set designer Walt Spangler to depict, with dead-on realism and dispatch, not only Linda’s home--including an upstairs bedroom, which her daughters share--but also various offices at Swan Corporation, among numerous other sites. After a certain point, the dizzying, rotating stage becomes akin to a swirling merry-go-round, as director Lynne Meadow has it turning and turning, with different characters walking on and off, and through different doors, without any dialogue whatsoever, in subdued but effective lighting by Jason Lyons. It all becomes part of the accelerating gallop of the play itself, which ultimately spins out of control, as Linda learns that she’s lost her--well, let’s just say, in the end, everything. [more]

Tuck Everlasting The Musical

May 8, 2016

The problem with the new show with a libretto by first timers Claudia Shear and Tim Federle now at the Broadhurst Theatre is that it is all so bland - which is not true of the novel which had grit as well as many surprises. The new prologue pretty much gives away the secret of the Tuck family’s discovery of the fountain of youth. The score by Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen (who wrote the Off Broadway musical 'The Burnt Part Boys") is pleasant but innocuous. Director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw who currently has the more flashy "Book of Mormon," "Aladdin" and "Something Rotten!" simultaneously running on Broadway has created a low-key production, atypical of his usual style, which seems a bit lost on the big Broadway stage. This might have worked better in a smaller Off Broadway house. [more]

Hold On to Me Darling

March 31, 2016

In the hands of someone other than Timothy Olyphant, Strings McCabe might be a self-pitying monster too extreme to take seriously. However, this brilliantly accomplished actor has just the right amount of blarney to make Kenneth Lonergan’s "Hold On to Me Darling" one of the most satisfying plays in town. And you will learn a good deal about the lives of the rich and famous and how they get away with the antics they commit. [more]

ON THE TOWN … with CHIP DEFFAA (Dec. 21, 2015)

December 23, 2015

It did my heart good to see Matanya Solomon dancing all-out after being pretty much sidelined as a "Nutcracker" dancer, due to injury, for the last two years. I greatly admire all good dancers for their dedication and hard work; but to not give up after being hampered for so long is extra admirable.  And he was fun as the Grandfather, making the most of the part (and interacting well with others) in the prologue (staged by Victoria Mazzarelli and Tim Melady). [more]

Hamlet

April 17, 2015

The first problem is the attractive modern setting by Walt Spengler of the wedding breakfast of Claudius and Gertrude with a huge cake in the background. The issue is that the table and the cake remain on stage for the entire evening, a terrible distraction. Does this palace have only one public room? The next situation is that Pendleton has chosen to cut both ghost scenes so that the audience is never told that Gertrude had an affair with her brother-in-law or that Claudius poisoned his brother Old Hamlet. The problem that this creates is that young Hamlet has to be played as paranoid as we have no way of knowing what the off-stage ghost told him, nor do we know what is bothering him when he acts so badly to his mother and step-father. [more]

Between Riverside and Crazy

February 16, 2015

Venerable and accomplished fixture of the theater, Austin Pendleton has perfectly directed the play. The characters and their relationships have all been minutely realized and the action well staged. Scenic designer Walt Spangler’s turntable set brilliantly renders the various rooms in Pops’ apartment as well as the building’s rooftop. Among the authentic looking details and props is a mournful Christmas tree with lights that subtly comments on the passage of time. [more]

Dying For It

January 14, 2015

Dying for It, Moira Buffini’s free adaptation of The Suicide, is fine as a drama but the premise makes it a classic farce. Unfortunately, the Atlantic Theater Company production fails to find the humor in this dark comedy. As such the contemporary parallels to our own time do not become obvious as either satire or humor. [more]

Between Riverside and Crazy

August 1, 2014

This breakfast chat is in the opening of scene of Between Riverside and Crazy, by Stephen Adly Guirgis. In a series of plays that include Our Lady of 121st Street, Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train and The Motherf***er with the Hat, Mr. Guirgis has become known for affectionately dramatizing the lives of passionate, off beat, New York City characters with inimitably colorful dialogue. [more]