Thursday, May 7, 2015
First off, it's not "I know what you did last summer". That is whole other genre and ball of wax. This show is a family drama and is touching, tender, and uplifting. It rings true and honestly portrays a family struggle at the tail end of WWII. No punches pulled. No fancy stage tricks, but plenty of innovative and unique theatrical presentation techniques - most prominently - the typewriter projection on the back wall and the percussion rhythms and sounds quietly but effectively matching the rhythm of speech and motion.
Most certainly the divine Kristine Nielsen takes the show instantly to a higher level. She is a consummate character actress and fits the bill perfectly for Anna Trumbull (a.k.a. The Pig Lady). Carolyn McCormick (known for her recurring role of Dr. Olivet in Law & Order) was the perfectly flawed and loving mother, Grace. Despite his tender age, the lead character, Charlie, the confused, energetic, every-day kid, was played with wild abandon and tremendous heart by the young and talented Noah Galvin (last seen in The Burnt Part Boys).
The entire play is enjoyable but when it wraps up - actually the very last line - you will leave the theater with a heart slightly warmer and full than when you entered.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Cast with two highly sought after young actors, Thomas Sadowski (Doug) and Amanda Seyfried (Beth), the story portrays two young individuals awkwardly and cautiously navigating the "morning after" throwing in a whopper of a twist. The twist, at first seems dark, but is quickly explained away as what might be perceived as a rather typical problem for 2nd (or 3rd) marriages with kids.
Mr. Sadowski is about as handsome as they come. (swoon). It seems that he is, as of late, is a pro at playing awkward, nervous, and smart - and Doug in this story is no different. Ms. Seyfried is young, bubbly, and equally awkward - all in a good way. She seems to have mastered the tortured, beautiful, and lost young woman out in the world today. Together these two ultimately rip up the stage and humorously dance around the issue at hand - a relationship.
I'll let you see for yourself how these two resolve their issues. For now, just know that your attendance at this 80 minute-no intermission play will leave you smiling long after you leave the theater.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Another self-absorbed, publicly financed purportedly cathartic psychotherapy session - live - and on stage for a limited run at the New York Theater Workshop where you can waste 80 minutes of your life suffering through someone else's perceived problems and maybe even tick off the last box of your theater subscription thinking about how this is not even close to theater so why did I even join this season?
Yes, you too can have the joy of listening to Dael Orlandersmith's abusive childhood and her generally unhappy adulthood mostly because of her mother. What a shocker - someone's mother treated them badly and died they way she lived - bitter, mean, and un-loved. Never heard that one before. And of course, the production is written and performed by Ms. Orlandersmith. Of course it was. Who else would want to?
Do yourself a favor. Don't encourage this type of performance art in paid theatrical subscriptions and stay away from this performance at NYTW. Go watch paint dry. It will be more fulfilling.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Poor constructionJenny Schwartz. Poor direction Ken Rus Schmoll. A play with more music than some musicals (Todd Almond). Frankly just a stupid idea all around. The talented actors actually seemed uncomfortable at times at the sheer stupidity they were employed to spew.
The stupid idea? A play that screams endlessly at you and has not a single cohesive idea (yes, we get it too - life today is filled with meaningless connections and a general lack of communication and genuine understanding). This play is filled with such crap and meaningless, unconnected, and disingenuous jokes that it was frankly insulting, trite, annoying and might just be a complete unmitigated disaster on stage.
I will purposely laud the actors on stage - all of whom smiled through the pain and genuinely churned out top notch performances despite the material. Cindy Cheung, April Matthis, Annie McNamara, Karyn Quackenbush, Carolina Sanchez, Lee Sellars, Jill Shackner, and Colette Tetlow all deserve polite applause and recognition.
I bet they didn't even know what they were getting into when it started. After all, nobody communicates anymore, right?
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Robert Fairchild (Jerry Mulligan). already a well respected and award-winning dancer has kept secret from us - he can sing and act too. A more perfect triple-threat I cannot imagine - so much so that I found it hard to take my eyes of him. He's handsome, svelte, funny, and flexible. His dance is mesmerizingly effortless - like a feather in the wind. Equally talented and beautiful is the central love interest in the story, Leanne Cope (Lise Dassin). She floats across the stage like a cloud of pure joy. She exudes Parisian charm and good looks with every step, note, and line she executes.
And while many could play the part, none other than the incomparable Veanne Cox portrays Madame Barurel - the uncompromising mother with some secrets who just wants her son to get married already. And guess what? I adore her comedic genius but now I find out she can dance like a pro too! The American determined to make it big in the Paris art world (and score a handsome man) is played by none other than the divine Jill Paice (Milo Davenport). Her singing, sultry and exquisite dresses, and dancing skills brought her character to life as she attempted to woo Mr. Fairchild.
This show is truly ballet extraordinaire and hence brings a full suite of skills and talent in the company to the stage - and they multiply it 10-fold with the play (ballet)-within-a-play (ballet) concept. The three handsome leading men (Mr. Fairchild along with Max von Essen (Henri Baurel) and Brandon Uranowitz (Adam Hochberg) succeed wildly in falling in love with the same woman in entirely different ways. Their chemistry is palpable and you really think these three might end up being friends in such a setting. Each has a different personality but they blend remarkably well.
From the breathtaking opening scene (it's magical) to the titular ballet scene in Act II, you won't want to miss a single moment of this rapturous and fluid performance. Although we recently experienced another show with Mr. Gershwin's music (You Can't Take it with You), this story is entirely different and evokes completely different emotions.
As was said about Rob McClure in Chaplin, the same can be said for Mr. Fairchild - "Welcome to the show that's going to make you a Broadway star".
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
What this production suffers from is a mis-matched leading pair. The divine and regal Kelli O'Hara in her gowns and frocks is nothing short of sublime. Her Portrayal of Anna Leonowens is both tender and bold, both strong and sympathetic. Her voice is near pitch perfect and just about every note she uttered was near pitch-perfect. However, she is not matched in her leading man, Ken Wantanabe (King of Siam). He may look the part, but there was something about his dialogue and delivery of the lines that suggested he had trouble with the English language which seems a bit odd to me. What possessed them to cast someone who was not easily understood? I did not conduct extensive background research here so I'm just reporting on what I saw and how it came across to me. It is what it is and it was a mark in the negatives column.
The show itself is an odd pastiche of scenes and a play-within-a-play. I enjoyed the spectacle put on by director, Bartlett Sher, and the creative and technical teams (Small House of Uncle Tom), but it always feels like a distraction and runs longer than needed and tends to distract from the cohesiveness and main story. There are always the children who bring smiles to many faces, but again, there seem to be a few too many and the endless procession of little bodies with nothing more than obligatory bows and scurrying gets old fairly fast.
We will see if this is indeed Kelli's year to win a (well deserved) Tony. She's got some stiff competition from Ms. Chenoweth in her show and that show, unlike this one, is hammering on all cylinders from start to finish.
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Dream cast. Brilliant writing. A tap-dancing full company including the stars. Raucous and rousing Broadway company numbers and top that all off with a story that's got heart. What more could you ask for on stage - except maybe electricity and running water?
Vocal powerhouse Brian d'Arcy James (Nick Bottom) and adorably nebbish John Cariani (Nigel Bottom) helm the cast along with the "rock star" Christian Borle (Shakespeare). This trio is nothing short of pure hysteria. Mr. Borle showcases his trademark ham-it-up acting style with wild abandon and draws Mr's. d'Arcy James and Bartlett into his lair of comedy.
Speaking of comedy, the creators of this delightful gem, Karey Kirkpatrick and Wayne Kirkpatrick (Book, Music, Lyrics) and John O'Farrell (Book) have discovered the secret to an unflappable smash Broadway hit. Inside jokes (Broadway), subject matter jokes (Shakespeare) and a whole lotta singing, tapping, and dancing in full company numbers. The full company stopped the show no less than 3 times - in both Act I (after A Musical) and in Act II (after Something Rotten! and Make an Omelette). I actually think it even came as a surprise to the company on at least one of the occasions.
The supporting cast is also nothing short of brilliant. Heidi Blickenstaff (Bea) belts out a delightful ballad in Act I. Brad Oscar (Nostradamus) is nothing short of mesmerizing as the Soothsayer who guides us through the journey "just a little bit off". Gerry Vichi (Shylock) plays the old Jew to the hilt and Brooks Ashmanskas (Brother Jeremiah) quite literally steals the show right out from under its stars just about every time he is on stage. And I mean every time.
This show is an homage to Broadway with its references and inside jokes (they come so subtly and quickly you'll miss many, but don't worry another one is on the way). At the same time it is a parody about Shakespeare's work (down to the names of the characters in this show) and in yet another layer, a story about following your heart and sticking to your dreams.
I understand from exiting the theater that the ushers even have a little competition going on to identify all the musical and theater references within the show. Now these people see the show every night and they're still finding hidden gems.
Seriously, the only thing you could ask for is a fresh Omelette on the way out of the theatre!
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Newcomer to Broadway, Tam Mutu (Yurii Zhivago), brings passion and conviction to Yurii. His voice is as powerful as his looks are good. Equally as good if not more so is his nemesis, Pasha Antipov / Strelinikov (Paul Alexander Nolan). With a set of pipes on him that quite literally made the house rumble and the roof shake, he is nothing short of vocal perfection and a significant foil to Mr. Mutu. There are also darling little children who portray various characters in their youth (Jonah Halperen, Sophia Gennusa, and Ava-Riley Miles). The ensemble is just as frenetic as the leading characters and the story - dancing classic Russian dances, twirling flags, firing guns, and battling a revolution. One might compare this to its French equivalent, Les Miserables, and at several points it uses similar theatrical tactics (a floating rotating disk, battle scenes, and revolutionary flags).
Did I mention this is an epic journey? Even the stage is purposefully pitched at an angle to give the allusion of depth, cavernousness, and struggle (upstage is really up). This musical could only have been more grand if we saw a 35 piece orchestra in black tie plucking and tooting away with wild abandon. The massive and numerous sets and fly space in the Broadway theatre allow for an incredible number of moving and flying parts from both the sides and the top. This only serves to enhance the urgency Mr. McAnuff attempts to convey along this journey of love, war, and conflict.
Costumes are certain to get a Tony nom (Paul Tazewell) and Scenic Design if for nothing other than the quantity will certainly be recognized (Michael Scott-Mitchell). Lighting was a massive undertaking that succeeds greatly (Howell Binkley). Not to be left out of an epic production are the projections (rain, background, portraits on the curtains) and most certainly will be recognized (Sean Nieuwenhuis). Now, why it was always raining and not snowing is a bit of a disconnect to the marketing materials the show put out, but that's a small point out of 100's of perfectly hit notes in this production.
Thursday, April 2, 2015
With an introduction like that - what's left but just the entire ensemble. I have been saying since intermission of the show that this is perhaps the hardest working, singing, dancing, and entertaining ensemble that is currently running on Broadway. It's seriously THAT good.
On the Twentieth Century is actually a musical by Comden & Green with music by Cy Coleman which is an adaptation of a play, Twentieth Century by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur based on the unproduced play Napoleon of Broadway by Charles B. Millholland, inspired by his experience working for the eccentric Broadway impresario David Belasco. Well that's a mouthful!
It's a good old-fashioned Broadway musical. That alone doesn't guarantee success. This production, however, goes every extra mile to ensure the delivery is crisp, bold, smart, and rhythmic. From the invisible orchestra to the tap dancing Porters (Rick Faugno, Richard Riaz Yoder, Drew King, and Phillip Attmore), to the show-within-a-show type story, this show has razzle, dazzle, sequins, slapstick comedy, Mary Louise Wilson (Letitia Peabody Primrose) and the audaciously sexy Andy Karl (Bruce Granit).
I never doubted for a moment that Roundabout's sets (David Rockwell) and lighting (David Holder) would be magnificent. They were. Costumes were simply lavish perfection (William Ivy Long).
From the moment the perfectly costumed and supremely gorgeous porters tap danced onto the stage until the very end when, all in white, the cast returns to the stage not a minute was ill-spent. Every single minute was filled with a laugh, a song, or a dance. Every single minute.
Get your ticket to board On the Twentieth Century today. It leaves from Chicago to New York 8 shows each week.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
The directorial choices and the entire setting - I guess a combination of director (Austin Pendleton) and scenic design (Walt Spangler) was lush, sophisticated, and smart. I won't even begin to analyze it as I have absolutely no idea what anyone else has ever done. I just know I liked it.
So if you're a Shakespeare fan, grab your ticket to Classic Stage's Hamlet and I can almost guarantee you will be transfixed for the entire 3 hours (including one intermission). You may even, like me, get to sit near Jake Gyllenhaal (who's sister Maggie is married to Mr. Sarsgaard)!
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
My, oh my. We seem to be enthralled with Mr. Pan indeed. Audacious? Indeed. Successful? You bet. This particular flavor of the story is how the author, J.M. Barrie, actually came to write the story and what inspired hm.
Director, Diane Paulus, has her creative stamp all over this production. Sophisticated, smart, powerful, and sublime are all words that apply here. Ms. Paulus never fails to waive her magic want and turn what might just be an ordinary production into something magical.
The sublime and talented Matthew Morrison (J.M Barrie) and Kelsey Grammer (Charles Frohman) take on this production with gusto. Mr. Morrison is endearingly adorable (as usual) and Mr. Grammar, while not a skilled singer, tackles the role with gusto and wild abandon. The result is a potent production with several moments of sheer magic on stage. Choreographer Mia Michaels also put her mark of modern dance throughout the evening. The ever-talented Carolee Carmello (Mrs. du Maurier) delivers her usual outstanding performance as well. Fill the stage with 4 adorable child actors, a dog, and an ensemble of hunky sometimes pirate dancers, and an orchestration that fills even the furthest nooks of the theater with high fidelity sound - and you've got he makings of a hit on your hands.
The aforementioned magic on stage hit its mark each and every time. The conclusion of Act One is a crescendo of grand proportions and that's not where the action stops. The magic continues up to the very last minute of the play with a lot of heart and great theatre in between. I didn't even mind Mr. Grammar's mugging at a joke in Act Two (despite it's non-dramatic material person-specific reference).
Finding Neverland is a magical evening in a very big theater packed to the gills with lots of kids who are there to swoon over Mr. Morrison (who am i kidding, count me in that crowd too) but who just might learn they actually like the theater too!
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Sam (Joseph Robinson) a handsome young bachelor dreams of a nightclub of his own and a pretty dame on his arm. Mary Elizabeth (Kristen French) a pretty young, and independent minded woman wants a husband to love in the soft suburban life out in California. Once they find each other, they give it all a shot. Not everything works out but in life, just as in love, compromises are always made. And if you give it your all, the sky's really the limit.
There are a few side stories going on here aside from the two lovers. Sam's best friend, Sonny Green (Jesse Maens), from the army is a great black jazz musician - and jazz (and apparently drugs) is his passion. Sam's "business partner" Willie (Anthony Bosco) is a true gangster. And Mary Elizabeth's "boyfriend" is a college professor quite her senior. All these story lines merge when Sam and Mary meet, get married, and open a jazz joint. Fireworks ensue and the tunes flow from the band.
The show is brilliantly lit especially for an off-off Broadway show (kudos Christina Wantanabe) and of course the band was delightful.
It's clear that a lot of love, care, and TLC went into cultivating this production.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Michael Cerveris (Bruce) and Judy Kuhn (Helen) may have their names above the title, but the true heart and soul of this show are the endearing and captivating three Allisons - Beth Malone (current Allison), Emily Skeggs (middle Allison) and Sydney Lucas (little Allison).
Lisa Kron adapted a graphic novel by Allison Bechdel perhaps perfectly. I wasn't so pleased with her last work but this one appears to be a home run. This new musical with music by the remarkable Jeanine Tesori debuted at the Public Theatre in 2013 and has now transferred to the Broadway to play in the round - a brilliant choice by director Sam Gold and the Producers. Theater -in-the-round provides an intimacy this play needs and deserves.
Unique and smart scenic design (David Zinn) and brilliant lighting (Ben Stanton) are the sublime icing on this already delicious cake.
This is a story about memory. It's a story told through the eyes of an adult looking back at her childhood through the fresh filter of her now adult-eyes. At times you laugh but as the story unfolds you can feel the tears begin to well-up inside. It's a story of our generation and of old ideas and ways of living but most importantly a story of love and triumph for a new generation.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Mr. Nighy is certainly a consummate actor, a master of his craft, a blindingly brilliant leading man. This time around - no change to that description. Ms. Mulligan was equally powerful and together they grab the audience (and each other) by the balls and do not let go for a good 2+ hours (including a real fresh cooked meal on stage!).
My only concern with this play is the interest factor. It is great, high drama. It's acting at its finest. But is the story compelling enough to hold the American audience's attention? Being a British playwright, Mr. Hare imbues the script with excessive language. On and on he goes in classic British style. Now, don't get me wrong, it certainly is high-brow and intelligent. It's just that the American audience is different than the British audience. I'm sure that Mr. Nighy's draw will pull in the American audiences, but I'm not so clear they will be walking out as happy as they were going in with their $100 ticket. Mr. Nighy likely could read the phone book to many in the audience so my fears may just be overblown and I'm being too picky over British plays.
If it's a compelling, exquisitely acted dramatic story you are looking for - look no further than Skylight now playing in a limited run over at the John Golden Theatre on West 45th.
(And Kudos to whoever is responsible for the throwback Playbill cover).
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
This was probably the most childish, immature, and infantile play I have seen that ever graced a Broadway stage. It seems to appeal to the kids (the ones that have enough money to afford a ticket, that is) that like to laugh at mean jokes and cheap lines about bad situations. Throw in plenty of "fucks" and I guess you have a Williamsburg hipster hit (until the 500 of them who can afford tickets are all cycled through anyway).
Why didn't I leave at intermission? One simple answer - Steven Boyer. His subtle and nuanced performance against his diametrically opposite sock puppet was outstanding. He has not only mastered the art of puppetry, but he has mastered a 2 person dialogue all within himself! His timing, facial expressions, puppet movement, and general skit-zo attitude on stage provided the much needed relief from the actual material of Robert Askins' awful new American play.
Were it not for Mr. Boyer, my evening would have ended after 60 minutes. Because of him, I did get to see the other 60 and digest Mr. Askins' point of view about religion, society, good, and evil. I get it, Mr. Atkins. I actually don't disagree with the theory that evil and good were invented to "keep the masses in line" and that perhaps there is some truth to the idea that we were better off in some ways when we are all alone instead of bound together in society and groups. Food for thought yes. But the material you chose to present on stage was a crude and crass way of getting your point across.