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Winter Garden Theatre

On the Town with Chip Deffaa: On Fanny Brice and “Funny Girl”

June 6, 2022

I’ve often told friends what an impact "Funny Girl" had on me.  That was the show that made me fall completely, utterly, and permanently in love with Broadway. I was a teenager when I saw it—not quite 15.  I started taking  odd jobs to make some extra  money;  I stopped buying comic books;  I began skipping school lunches, too—I was trying to save every possible penny so I could  buy Broadway theater tickets. Theater became my top priority.   And as often as possible, I would go to see another Broadway show.  (Broadway was far more affordable then than it is now, and I was eager to check out everything—musicals, comedies, dramas. I could often get tickets to shows—up in the balcony--that didn’t cost much more than tickets to movies.)  "Funny Girl"—more than "My Fair Lady" or any other show I appreciated—was what got me really hooked on theater. And  I’m still grateful for that. [more]

The Music Man

February 22, 2022

Because of changing social mores, some Broadway musicals are assumed to make audiences uncomfortable today. Take for example Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "Carousel" whose protagonist is a wife-beater. The recent revival did everything in its power to mitigate this problem but did not succeed. Now we have the long awaited revival of Meredith Willson’s "The Music Man" starring film megastar Hugh Jackman as Professor Harold Hill and two-time Tony Award-winner Sutton Foster as Marian Paroo, the librarian and music teacher. The problem the director and producers had with this classic piece of Americana, set in 1912, is that the hero Professor Hill is a con-artist and a serial seducer with whom we are supposed to be sympathetic. However, in 2022 this is an obstacle in an era when lovable rogues are not acceptable as heroes. As a solution, Jackman has been directed by Jerry Zaks to play Harold Hill as low-key and muted as he possibly can. What this does is straitjackets Jackman’s personal charm and charisma which he normally has in spades. The result is an undercooked Music Man even though it has been given a big, expensive production – six Tony Award winners on stage and six in the production team - maybe the starriest cast in New York right now. [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]

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]

Wolf Hall, Parts One & Two

April 28, 2015

As deftly adapted by British playwright Mike Poulton and vigorously directed by Jeremy Herrin, the plays on the stage of the Winter Garden vividly bring to life the British court and its intrigue during the early sixteenth century, from about 1529 - 1536. Poulton wisely leaves out Cromwell’s childhood and youth described in the first novel and begins with him as lawyer to Cardinal Wolsey where the real story begins. However, like the published books, many of the major events take place between the scenes and the characters meet up to discuss the outcome. These are not plays for those who have not read the novels or are not familiar with the historical events or characters as there are too many people and relationships to keep straight if one doesn’t. Nine of the actors play one character each, the rest play between two and four. [more]