News Ticker

Off-Broadway

Titanic

June 18, 2024

The tapestry Stone weaves with his multitude of characters—too many to mention here—is always fascinating in its subtle details.  Each person stands on his or her own helped by superb performances by the entire cast under the skilled direction of Anne Kauffman ("Mary Jane" and "The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window").  Under her care they all sing magnificently helped by guest music director Rob Berman’s sensitive handling of the Yeston score, directing the large Encores! Orchestra to bring out all the facets of the almost operatic music. [more]

David, A New Musical

June 14, 2024

"David" now at the AMT Theater is an ambitious Off Broadway musical dramatizing the story of the youth of the hero David, later second king of Israel. It has a bouncy contemporary score by Albert Tapper and a large talented cast. Somewhat indebted to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Biblical musicals, it is narrated by the older King David on his deathbed to the Prophet Nathan. Most of David’s adventurous exploits take place off stage, while the dramatized scenes are mainly political and dramatic. [more]

The World According to Micki Grant

June 9, 2024

Grant’s work is well-known to many, but this intimate, compact little revue featuring four actors, Matelyn Alicia, April Armstrong, Patrice Bell and Brian Davis, is an enjoyable, informative, and intimate love letter celebrating Grant anew. Although known for writing the 1959 single “Pink Shoe Laces” (sung by bobby sox darling Dodie Stevens), and the more visible musicals "Your Arms Too Short to Box with God" and "Cope," the evening’s offerings include many lesser-known works by Grant as well as unpublished songs, narratives, and poems, all demonstrating the broad, deep, and cutting edges of her humor, observation, and thought provocation in subjects running the gamut from love, war, rebellion, and justice. Days later, I’m still singing her two big songwriting numbers from the Stephen Schwartz musical "Working," “Cleanin’ Women” and “If I Could’ve Been” in my head. [more]

Three Houses

May 25, 2024

Someone once coined the adage, “Write what you know.”  For the past few seasons, we have seen many writers have a lot to say about surviving the Covid lockdown, but none so eloquently as Dave Malloy in "Three Houses." Where there is often the sameness in the stories we’ve heard thus far, Malloy chooses to give us three not so disparate individuals each with a particular heartbreaking loneliness. All three tales are prefaced “so this is the story of how i went a little bit crazy living alone in the pandemic.” Where aloneness is ripe for scenes that are maudlin, Malloy setting these tales to music is rapture. [more]

Winesday: The Wine Tasting Musical

May 24, 2024

When it comes to coffee klatches, wine seems to be a good substitute, or at least that is the case with the women in "Winesday: The Wind Tasting Musical," with book and lyrics by Jenne Wason and music by Joseph Benoit. It is a show that could leave you tipsy at the end but generally satisfied with the experience. The songs are clever and well-sung by a solid group of five actors, and the book doesn't rely on a straightforward plot but provides a series of entertaining vignettes that help define the characters' lives with details about their ups and downs. Jamibeth Margolis's direction effectively guides the cast to deliver funny, well-integrated performances in a constrained setting. [more]

My True Love: A Perfect Musical Fairytale

May 21, 2024

'My True Love: A Perfect Musical Fairytale" is a musical fairy tale, written by Ben Boecker, about the choices made when the world is a place of dreams. Solid direction by Carolyn Popadin guides the diverse cast as it takes the audience on a romp through a magic land of self-discovery as a young witch explores the complex ideas surrounding consent, self-realization, and acceptance. Don’t let the heavy-sounding themes throw you off; the show is a frothy musical comedy with a good ensemble and a couple of outstanding individual performances. It intentionally comes close to a feeling of a student production, but that idea strongly supports the overall thrust of the show. [more]

David and Katie Get Re-Married

May 7, 2024

"David and Katie Get Re-Married" is the creation of David Carl and Katie Hartman. Using original songs, funny and timely commentary, and interesting props, they take a musical romp through the trials and tribulations of tying the knot again. Michole Biancosino provides outside-the-box direction for the humorously demented exploration of whether marriage is an institution or whether the people doing it should be institutionalized. In the end, it becomes clear that it is, maybe, both. It is a show to be savored in the afterglow of the experience. [more]

The Outsiders: A New Musical

April 22, 2024

The cast of "The Outsiders: A New Musica"l bring their own substantial charisma to the stage, but it's been dramaturgically constrained by Adam Rapp and Justin Levine's book, which sacrifices poetry for explanation. That unfortunate choice is abetted by a score from Levine, Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance (the latter two comprising the folk duo Jamestown Revival) that, influenced by "Oklahoma!" instead of pure sentiment, is far too Rodgers and Hammerstein, when it should have aimed for Rodgers and Hart. [more]

Teeth

April 13, 2024

Sarah Benson’s direction is spot-on, but we find ourselves wishing the closing scene was more than just a plethora of bloody penises. This is where the creatives needed to say, “Okay, this is probably not what we wanted to say”. Adam Rigg’s scenic design though spare, is perfect for a mid-America room that can pass as a small church, or AA meeting. The neon cross is a great touch and Jane Cox and Stacey Derosier’s changing colors do not go unnoticed…particularly when the cross is pink amidst a lavender wash when Ryan is in the scene. Enver Chakartash’s costume design is appropriate across the board, although the women’s outfits in the closing scene are a mélange of Tina Turner’s castoffs from "Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome." Choreographer Raja Feather Kelly provides fine ensemble suites for the Promise Keeper Girls. [more]

Dead Outlaw

April 1, 2024

Conceived by Yazbek, the show is structured as a folksy retelling of the haplessly heinous Elmer McCurdy's life and post-life story, with the unbelievably true and undeniably dead portion reaching its final chapter after a prop person discovered Elmer's mummified corpse in 1976 on the set of "The Six Million Dollar Man." Unfortunately, Yazbek's collaborators from the Tony-winning "The Band's Visit"--book writer Itamar Moses and director David Cromer--are decidedly second fiddles this time around, adding little to the proceedings to make "Dead Outlaw" notable as anything other than a pretty solid concept album, especially as performed by an indefatigable combo that includes Della Penna belting out some of his own lyrics and strumming multiple instruments. [more]

A Sign of the Times

March 3, 2024

This York Theatre Company production at the New World Stages, following a presentation at Goodspeed Musicals in 2016, shoehorns these songs into a book by Lindsey Hope Pearlman from a story created by Richard J. Robin. It has an ambitious plot that glibly takes on a number of themes roiling through the turbulent Sixties:  women’s lib, civil rights, the war in Vietnam, the sexual revolution, Andy Warhol, and even a premature touch of gay liberation. [more]

Jelly’s Last Jam (New York City Center Encores!)

February 26, 2024

Does the New York City Center Encores! new production of "Jelly’s Last Jam" hold up against the original Broadway production (1992-1993) which starred Gregory Hines (Tony Award), Savion Glover, Keith David and Tonya Pinkins (Tony Award)? Yes, it does and makes a good case for Jam’s enjoying a strong future.  This production, directed with verve and precision by Robert O’Hara, is both a fine musical and a fine drama, a diamond in the crown that is the Encores! thirty-year history. [more]

Five, The Parody Musical

February 25, 2024

When she arrives dressed in a white pant suit, Labeija steals the stage with Hillary’s number “Miss Me Now” which trumps them all with a series of Broadway parodies paying tribute to Clinton’s love of the theater, with recognizable quotes from "The Sound of Music," "Company," "Gypsy," "Chicago," "Evita," "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and "Dreamgirls." However, while all of this is clever, at times the show becomes “can you identify this parody.” A “Six Mixalot” for the company takes the same place as “The Megasix” in "Six." Lena Gabrielle does fine work with the four-person all-female band but the sound design by Bailey Trierweiler, Kevin Heard and Uptown Works is often too loud for this small Off Broadway theater. [more]

White Rose: The Musical

February 1, 2024

While we are presented with characters who are doing a noble thing and can be touched by what they go through to accomplish their task, Brian Belding’s book and lyrics repeatedly take us out of 1942. In breaking up a fight between her brother and her old flame, Sophie blurts, “Are we seriously doing this?!”…Seriously? The tone is not “then” in 1942, it’s a university student of present day. When Willi walks in on the scene, he asks “What the f*@k is going on?!” We don’t doubt the impulse behind it, but was that really the vernacular in 1942? Natalie Brice’s score has its moments with some of the solos, but the full company songs sound like retreads of "Les Miserables" chorus numbers. “Munich” sounds like “Blind Eye” sounds like “Why Are You Here?” sounds like “The Mess They Made” sounds like “We Will Not Be Silent.” All are full throttle songs with the same sentiment, so why are there so many? [more]

Once Upon a Mattress (New York City Center Encores!)

January 30, 2024

Of course, in true American musical theater form the elegant Princess has been transformed into the bedraggled and uncouth Winnifred (Foster, in her best goofy guise, proving her talent knows no boundaries).  Winnie answers the call to audition to be the bride of the equally goofy Prince Dauntless (Michael Urie, funny, but hampered by his material’s lack of sophistication while taking a busman’s holiday after recently departing from "Spamalot)". The marvelously imperious Harriet Harris plays Dauntless’ mother, Queen Aggravain married to the mute, but highly communicative King Sextimus the Silent (David Patrick Kelly, adorable). [more]

The Greatest Hits Down Route 66

January 28, 2024

The title of Michael Aguirre’s "The Greatest Hits Down Route 66," the story of the Franco family’s road trip during the summer of 1999, refers to Carl Sandburg’s 1927 "The American Songbag,' a best-selling collection of early folksongs. Aguirre tells us that “the goal is to use music as a memory, an imprint, incidental. It should carry emotional weight but don’t depend on it to move the plot forward.” And that is the problem with the show: the songs are extraneous to the plot and have little impact as most of the 13 songs sung are so familiar, in the musical arrangements of Grace Yukich and Jennifer C. Dauphinais. There are no surprises in the music played by a three piece band and a lead vocalist, Hannah-Kathryn “HK” Wall. Occasionally, the narrator played by Joél Acosta joins in or sings a song himself. [more]

Brighter than the Sun

January 19, 2024

Hendley is solid in his performance as the narrator of his and his grandmother’s story. His presentation commands attention without demand, smoothly and effortlessly focusing on the words being spoken. He has created a show with a strong storyline but needs a rework of the structure. Although his narrational guidance is well-written and beautifully presented, it adds too much exposition when perhaps the information could be dramatized. [more]

Becoming Chavela

December 25, 2023

Ranchera is a style of traditional Mexican folk music with origins in the ranchos of rural Mexico. The songs are about love, patriotism, or nature and are usually sung by men. The vocals have a rough, raw quality in contrast to the more refined vocalizations of the urban singers. In Mexico City, Chavela defied the norms and sang rancheras with her style and interpretations while staying true to the rawness of delivery and the ideas expressed by the lyrics. Trudeau transforms herself into Chavela with an on-stage costume change and then provides solid interpretations of some of Vargas’ classic rancheras as she takes the audience on an exploration of Vargas' life in Mexico City, a brief time in Cuba and to the mid-1970’s when she stopped performing as a result of all the tequila she had consumed over the years. Although Trudeau's voice is more refined, she still delivers the songs with all the passion and fire needed in some and the introspection and sadness in others. Her embodiment of Vargas is complete. [more]

Buena Vista Social Club

December 20, 2023

While the exciting new stage musical Buena Vista Social Club shares the same name with the acclaimed 1999 documentary by Wim Wenders, playwright Marco Ramirez’s book for the new show takes a different approach to the true story now under the direction and development of go-to director Saheem Ali (Fat Ham) for new work by people of color. While the film took us to the recording studio and then interviewed or followed the daily lives of the major singers and musicians involved ultimately taking us to their July 1, 1998 Carnegie Hall concert, the stage show instead tells the 1956 backstory of several of the main characters after we meet them at the 1996 recording session. Although the film made the male singers Ibrahim Ferrer and Compay Segundo the main characters, the musical puts the focus on recording star Omara Portuondo. Both approaches contain the original songs sung by the Cuban music group of old timers that came together in 1996 to record an album of almost forgotten Cuban songs making both versions documents of the highest authenticity. [more]

An Axemas Story

December 7, 2023

Despite its fairy-tale plot, Axemas isn’t really suitable for children because of language and sexual situations, but everyone else will find something amusing in this rag-taggle production.  An Axemas Story could use some tightening and more professional looking scenery, but it’s tongue-in-cheek fun, nevertheless. The score is beautifully played under the musical direction of Sara Linger and the keyboard expertise of Buck McDaniel. [more]

Killin’ Republicans

December 6, 2023

"Killin’ Republicans," concept and libretto by Dick D. Zigun and music by Arturo Rodriquez, directed by vagabond, is billed as a rock opera about violence towards certain Republican Party leaders since the mid-nineteenth century. It deals with a series of assassinations and attempted assassinations of Republican leaders from the 1850s to President Reagan in 1981. It is supposed to be a discussion about the reasons for the attacks and not a call for violence against Republicans. The entire show is sung or performed in spoken form in various styles as more of a concept concert than an opera. The libretto covers a wide range of events attempting to give context to the multiple incidents but fails to clarify the point of the show. It is a mistake in its present form. [more]

The Jerusalem Syndrome: A Musical Comedy of Biblical Proportions

December 4, 2023

"The Jerusalem Syndrome" is a pleasant new musical comedy with some fine clever songs and good comic moments. However, Don Stephenson’s production does not take the farcical elements far enough nor does he allow the cast to really have fun with their wacky roles. Playing this material mainly straight undercuts the inherent fun in the premise and plot as the Jerusalem syndrome is ripe for satire. [more]

The Gardens of Anuncia

December 3, 2023

Michael John LaChiusa’s "The Gardens of Anuncia" is an interesting attempt to tell choreographer Graciela Daniele’s adolescent story. Unfortunately, as of now the show does not make the case that her coming of age was that eventful or compelling. What we might like to know is about her famed career, but that sort of presentation has been done in "Fosse," "Jerome Robbins’ Broadway," and "Prince of Broadway," the Harold Prince story. "The Gardens of Anuncia" is pleasant enough but leaves one hungry for more. The magical realism elements might be more fleshed out and some of the unanswered questions that are coyly handled might be revealed. [more]

Hell’s Kitchen

November 29, 2023

"Hell’s Kitchen" is both ambitious and noble in its intentions. However, as of now the show on the stage of The Newman at The Public Theater is not there yet. With very few characters developed and too many unanswered questions, the show’s book needs a simple rewrite. The Alicia Keys' score which too often sounds the same could use a reshaping to find some climactic moments other than the drama in the story. The plot lines need to come together more, rather than as disparate elements that take us in new directions all the time. Ultimately, Hell’s Kitchen has great potential when these problems are addressed. [more]

Amid Falling Walls (Tsvishn Falndike Vent)

November 27, 2023

Director Matthew “Motl” Didner manages to make what might have been just a well-staged concert of moving songs into a dramatic whole with a deep feeling for the ebb and flow of emotions from happiness to hopelessness. "Amid Falling Walls"—an apt title, unfortunately, still consequential in 2023—does come during a spike in anti-Semitism.  Though an entertainment, the show provides ample historical evidence of blind prejudice.  If only the message could register. [more]

School Pictures

November 26, 2023

Milo Cramer’s delightful solo musical "School Pictures," part of a festival of new one person shows running in repertory at Playwrights Horizons, is wildly inventive, hilarious funny, and extremely insightful about adolescence, class, over-privilege and the New York education system. Almost entirely sung throughout, School Pictures tells us in a series of 11 songs about Cramer’s experiences working as a private tutor in NYC after school with mostly rich, brilliant students who are damaged by their parents – and their own – expectations. All of them hope to get into one of the eight elite specialized high schools for which they will need the SHSAT (Specialized High School Admissions Test) or top colleges and the competition as both the parents and students know is fierce. [more]

Emergence: Things Are Not As They Seem

October 28, 2023

Olson might very well be the three-way love child of Thomas Dolby, Bill Irwin, and Max Headroom. He carries the show with an unbridled, infectious, childlike enthusiasm, sharing what he knows and loves--science and music--using songs he wrote in his car and lyrics that support his storytelling. He puts on this show like a life-long project that he couldn’t wait to find the barn for. Olson reels us all in as he fills our minds with profundities in the same ease and flair he might have if he were telling us an evening of dad jokes. He shares postulates about time, space, color, light, thought, consciousness, love, and existence, in easy-to-grasp terms using purposeful words and with exquisite imagery. [more]

(pray)

October 15, 2023

nicHi douglas’ vision is one of evocative beauty, one that gives us stage pictures to treasure for some time. The seated women fanning themselves with beautiful white fans as they watch one of their own reading a passage or singing is a natural touch. Even the graphic for the show gives us pause – the word “pray” surrounded by two hands creating the parentheses denotes how personal the power of an individual’s prayer is. douglas’ church is almost utopian in its design in that it welcomes all with no judgment…even the “mixed company” of whites present at the service who might be startled by how genuinely euphoric the service is. Her choreography, like her direction, is empowered by a true spirit of celebration, reminiscent of the great Alvin Ailey masterwork, "Revelations." [more]

The Picher Project

October 13, 2023

"The Picher Project" is a bluegrass and folk-infused musical conceived and directed by Quentin Madia, with music, book, and lyrics by Madia and Lauren Pelaia. This show is based on real-life events that are not only a part of Oklahoma's history but also of the social and industrial history of the United States. Through words and songs, the story is told of how this gentle, quiet, rural area became the center of lead and zinc mining in North America, only to end up dead as the number one most polluted place in the United States. [more]

Saw The Musical: The Unauthorized Parody of Saw

October 6, 2023

"Saw The Musical: The Unauthorized Parody of Saw" begins with a picture perfect recreation of the disgusting bathroom from the first movie in the iconic horror franchise. Then the puppet (Billy) shows up, wishing us a hearty "Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome." (Note: this review has spoilers for "Saw" the movie as well as "Saw The Musical.") The show is impressively done with a cast of three (with the exception of Detective Tapp, played via voiceover by Donnel Johnson). Danny Durr plays Gordon and Zepp, Adam Parbhoo plays Adam and Gordon's daughter Diana, and on opening night Gabrielle Goodman played Amanda, Ali and Jigsaw. Goodman in particular stands out with a lovely voice and excellent dance skills, but all three turn in solid performances. (Durr's wig is so good it deserves its own program credit.) [more]

Twisted

October 5, 2023

It takes considerable skill for competent actors to play at being bad actors, and many of the cast members succeed. It is not a bad play, but the overarching problem with the show is that it is playing to a niche audience. If you do not know anything about the B-movies of the 50’s and 60’s, you will react as I did in thinking it is a terrible play. If you are familiar with the work of Roger Corman, William Castle, or any other B-film directors, or any of the films, such as "Galaxy of Terror," "The Little Shop of Horrors," "The Tingler," "The Curse of the Werewolf," or any of the dozen movies of that period, you may enjoy this production [more]

Golden Rainbow

October 4, 2023

The 1968 musical 'Golden Rainbow" (the show that gave us the song sensation “I’ve Gotta Be Me”) was so identified with its stars Steve Lawrence and Edie Gormé that it has not been seen in 55 years. When it was suggested to composer Walter Marks that he revisit the show, he found it had so much material created specifically for the Lawrences that it was no longer revivable. Instead he has written a new version of the original book by the late Ernest Kinoy (his collaborator on the Broadway musical "Bajour") as well as five new songs. The results are a small but appealing musical comedy with a terrific jazzy score as directed and choreographed by Stuart Ross. [more]
1 2 3 14