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Thursday, April 16, 2015

An American in Paris

Quite possibly this is the most beautifully staged ballet mounted on a Broadway stage.  The perfect blend of theater, dance, and storytelling is something you cannot miss.  The dancing is breathtaking.  The music  (George  and Ira Gershwin) is classic and instantly recognizable.  I have not seen the movie (it's rare that I have) and I was swept up in this luxurious, eye-popping spectacular on stage at the Palace Theater directed and choreographed by the incomparable master of dance, Christopher Wheeldon.

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

The King and I

When Lincoln Center Theater takes on a project, they never fail to dazzle and impress.  With the largest and best thrust stage in NYC, the scenic effects and  the overall theatricality appear boundless and always delight.  The orchestra - exposed, vibrant, and lush - never fails to fill the theater to the brim with complex melodies.  This production of The King and I, a Rogers and Hammerstein classic, is no exception from a production standpoint.  On any other stage it would be less.  With such a large cast as this show supports (virtually all Broadway  debuts), I'm not sure they would even fit!

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

Something Rotten!

Ladies and gentlemen - we have a smash hit simmering on the back burner here.  No out of town tryout - straight to Broadway  - and after a mere 2 weeks of previews, this show has  already proven itself to to be a knock-out, smash (pardon the pun) hit!

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

Doctor Zhivago

Dr. Yurii Zhivago is on an epic quest.  This first Broadway production directed by Des McAnuff is nothing short of one descriptive word.  Urgent.  This tale of a Russian doctor and poet who falls in love and is caught up in the Russian revolution in the first few decades of the twentieth century is a massive, urgent, prolific, and passionate tale told by a cast of dozens.  Scenery flies in and out frantically.  Musical numbers all contain giant crescendos.  Time is fleeting.  Lives will be lost.  Will Doctor Zhivago and his true love triumph?  You will only find out if you visit the Broadway Theatre and witness this audacious undertaking unfold in just under 3 hours.

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

On the Twentieth Century

And the Tony goes to.....  yes, this one is a shoe-in for a nom... or six... and we'll just see who they are up against for the wins.  Warren Carlyle (Choreography) has got to be on the nominee list for his craft.  And let's not leave out Scott Ellis (Director) for his craft.  And don't think for a minute that Kristin Chenoweth is not a shoe-in her category.  Peter Gallagher just might be on the list too.

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

Hamlet

Let me just say up front here - Shakespeare is not my cup of tea.  Maybe I'm stupid or thick-headed but the language is far to complicated for my simple mind to follow.  I need the 7 year old's cliff's notes version to follow it.   If I did not know someone in this play I would likely never have gone in the first place.  But there is always a silver-lining in every evening at the theatre.   My silver lining this evening was the incomparable perfectionist, Peter Sarsgaard.

By way of background, I work with someone who used to be an actor. He got a call to come audition for this show and he jumped at the opportunity to get back on stage after 15 years. Fast forward to the evening of my attendance.  Mr. Sarsgaard was completely transformational.  His interpretation and portrayal of Hamlet was simply immersive and complete.  Although I wanted to poke my eyes out at the language, Mr. Sarsgaard managed to captivate my attention and keep me engaged.  My friend from work, Jim Broaddus (Voltemand and others) , the reason I attended in the first place, was that much better in my eyes because of Hamlet (and he was already good).

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

Finding Neverland

I don't know about you, but it seems to me that there have been a whole spate of shows and movies about this Peter Pan character!  Peter and the Starcatcher, Peter Pan Live on NBC, Pan (a movie) and now this audacious project - an adaptation by none other than movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein, of the Johnny Depp movie by the same name and the play The Man who was Peter Pan by Allan Knee.

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

All Gone West

Jonathan Fluck does dual duty in this off-off Broadway work - both director and producer extraordinaire.   John Attanas' play is not quite a musical but is infused with great jazz vibes of the 4 piece band just off stage.  This is the story of dreams and dreamers, loves and lovers, and giving it all you got not matter what the outcome.

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

Fun Home

 When you don't know anything about a show going into it,  this can make the theatrical experience simply magical.  Frankly everyone should go into this show with only the knowledge that it is both heartbreaking yet wonderfully powerful and uplifting story.  That's all I'm gonna say.  I'm not even going to tell you what the name of the show means.  You'll have to find out for yourself.

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

Skylight

I've only seen one other British playwright David Hare play, The Vertical Hour, and ironically it stared the same leading man.  This must mean something.  This play, Skylight, like the last one, is also basically a 2 hander.  Last time around it was Julianne Moore who graced the stage with Bill Nighy.  This time it is Carey Mulligan.

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.

Interestingly enough, I was compelled after the show to discuss something about the show after all - the need to write in a part for the son, Tom Sergeant (Matthew Beard).  While he provided exposition at the beginning, the character really had limited meaning to the overall story.  This show really could have been a true 2 hander, but in the end I also admit that this part provides great exposure to a young talented actor - and Mr. Beard takes full advantage of the opportunity demonstrating his fine looks and skills.

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

Hand to God

By my calculations this is the 5th worst play I've ever seen... And I've seen a LOT of plays.  Trust me.  What makes this the 5th worst and not the 3rd worst is the fact that #1,  I stayed past intermission (i considered leaving, yes) and #2, the tremendous talent of one single cast member.

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.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

It Shoulda Been You

Fasten your seat belts because David Hyde Pierce's directorial debut on Broadway is going to be a wild ride.  Prepare for hilarity, mix ups, and mayhem, in what just might be the funniest original musical on the boards right now.

Helmed by the incomparable Tyne Daly (Judy Steinberg) and the zany Harriet Harris (Georgette Howard), the show revolves around the marriage of their two children Rebecca Sternberg (Sierra Boggess) and Neil Patrick Harris' husband a.k.a David Burtka (Brian Howard).   Although below the title, the real workhorses of this show were Edward Hibbert (Albert, the wedding planner) and Lisa Howard (Jenny Steinberg) sister of the bride.

The show has a real heart and as it turns out, a real message too.  At the same time funny, and tender, Brian Hargrove's (husband of Mr. Pierce) book and lyrics bring this 105 minute, no-intermission show to a joyous celebration of life.  Barbara Anselmi's music is serviceable with a few high notes but we're not going to see any Tonys come out of this one.   But make no mistake, the comedic skills of the two leading ladies - Ms. Daly and Ms. Harris as well as those of Mr. Hibbert are most of what makes this show a smashing success.  The good looks of Ms. Boggess and Mr. Burtka are just icing on the cake.

One under-the-radar and certainly under-promoted stars on the bill is Josh Grisetti (Marty Kaufmann).  From his debut in the audience to his silky smooth voice and the emotional conclusion, Mr. Grisetti imbues a nebbish yet sexy and powerful persona in Marty.  His significance to the plot is paramount and by the end of the show you've changed your entire opinion of him.

This show has a lot of doors and a fair amount of physical comedy to which timing is the key.  It reminded me of Noises Off.  The entire cast works really hard and climbs and descends the two story set throughout the show.  I must assume they'll shave about 5-10 minutes off the show as they perfect the timing and tighten up the scene changes and the curtain call.  

Bravo Mr. Hargrove and Mr. Pierce.  You've got a top notch cast singing and acting their heart out every night to what I can only suspect will be to thunderous applause and a feel-good exit from the theatre.  Isn't that exactly how it shoulda be?  :-)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Audience

In what might be heralded as the show of the season, Dame Helen Mirren graces the stage at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre bringing Queen Elizabeth II to life right here on West 45th Street here in the USA.  What is not as evident is that this play is not only about her, it is about her Prime Ministers and how history and their personalities shaped her life.

This production is written and presents her in a very soft light.  Her youth interrupted by the duties of Royalty;  Her upbringing influenced by wars, world events, and the British culture.  Her steadfast dedication to Britain even today is a testament to her perseverance  and steadfast dedication to her calling.

Peter Morgan's book which has changed ever so slightly for the US audiences presents her story as told through glimpses into the private meetings she holds with her Prime Ministers.  Lightly narrated by Geoffrey Beavers (Equerry) to give it an "insider feeling", it was funny, touching, heartfelt and endearing and this portrait of the queen does not dwell on any one event or family tragedy. On the contrary - it flows as effortlessly as her on-stage costume changes throughout the long span of her reign.

Equally diverse were her prime ministers over the years as portrayed by fine actors who all looked and sounded like their real-life role models.  From Winston Churchill (Dakin Matthews) and Margaret Thatcher (Judith Ivey) to John Major (Dylan Baker) to Gordon Brown (Rod McLachlan) and Tony Blair all the way up to the current David Cameron  (both Rufus Wright)- they all brought a political bent and a touching tale to the stage to help frame the life and experiences of the queen.


Life apparently isn't all tea and crumpets and Dame Helen Mirren brings the majesty as well as the normalcy of having lived a life in a castle straight to the stage.

A first class production all around which looked, sounded, and felt like they spent King's ransom on it behind the scenes.  There are even two of the queens guards in full regalia standing at attention guarding the stage at intermission.  Run.  Don't Walk.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Posterity

Perhaps the only downside to writing and directing a play is that you don't get enough valuable feedback.  When Doug Wright penned this gem, he should have turned the direction over to someone else - to get that independent perspective - to achieve even greater greatness.  Instead what we ended up with is a play that is a bit too long and a bit over-played by the actors.  Indeed it has a great story - two artists engaged in a debate over  their legacy, what will they be remembered for.  In the case of one - art took precedence over family.  In the other, poverty, obscurity and principles seem to rule the day over actually doing work and getting paid.

Despite this - we find these two artists engaged in a battle of wills.  Who will succeed?  What will happen in the end?  I will give away nothing except to say that both actors give astonishingly brilliant performances.  It's a based on real people and real art so it's both educational and entertaining at the same time.

The ever-dashing Hamish Linklater (Gustav Vigeland) plays the young budding sculptor and the great John Noble (Henrik Ibsen) plays the world famous literary genius with aplomb.

The language in this play is smart.  Very smart.  Very intellectual.  Lofty, some might say.  The level of language was maintained throughout, but the effect was occasional drift and loss of content as you were trying to figure out what they were saying/meaning.  If nothing else, one could simply say this is a smart man's play.  If you're not, maybe think twice before going but at the prices at the Atlantic, think hard because seeing actors this fine for such a price is well worth it.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Heidi Chronicles

Wendy Wasserstein certainly had something to say.  An now her bold play is back on Broadway to the delight of feminists everywhere.  There's a sense that it is just as timely as ever.  Others think it's a tired episode re-hashed on stage that needs to be made current.  Heidi is not a technology genius.  She's not a power-hungry executive of 2006.  What she is is a feminist and what Ms. Wasserstein does so brilliantly and powerfully is to showcase a proud and true woman in her journey through the years.  What someone needs to have done, however, is to shorten the play.  Heidi and her companions always grade things.  Here i find it an A+ for effort, C- for brevity and content.

Elisabeth Moss (Heidi Holland) was an interesting choice for Heidi.  Not quite as dynamic as I would have expected her to be.  Kind of a doormat.  Moments of brilliant acting interlaid with a lot of hum-drum. Jason Biggs (Scoop Rosenbaum) is the dashingly successful boy she never married.  He's dashing alright.  But more of the hum-drum thing going on.  The bright spots in this production are Bryce Pinkham (Peter Patrone) as her gay foil for life and Tracee Chimo (Fran, Molly, Betsy, and April) as a multitude of funny, biting, bold, and hysterical characters that pass through Heidi's life.

The design of the set  (John Lee Beatty) is clever - a rotating platform that transforms the stage over the decades - sort of an homage to as time spins on and on.  By the size of the audience at the performance I attended the show is off to a slow start - which is surprising with the high profile names attached to the show.  Despite being too long, this show achieves a passing grade, it's just felt it's not quite as powerful or succinct as it could be.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Honeymoon in Vegas

In what might be one of his smoothest moves yet - the always slick and sexy Tony Danza seems to have been a part of bringing a show to Broadway starring.... well, none other than himself!  Honeymoon is delicious fun and a delightful escape from a cold and snowy New York City night.

Modeled after the movie, Andrew Bergman and Jason Robert Brown have penned an entertaining evening in the theatre.  Colorful, Vegas-style costumes and lighting fill the theater, while the large cast fills the stage with dancing, frivolity, and a whole lot of heart.   Don't get me wrong - the show ain't gonna win a Pulitzer price for literature or drama in any stretch of the imagination.  It's simply pure, unadulterated entertainment for just about 2 ½ hours.  And why didn't anyone think of this sooner - Vegas show girls, gangsters, a mad-cap plot, and a couple you know - right from the start - have got to end up together.

If Mr. Danza is selling the tickets with his name (and still handsome looks), the secret weapon this show wields is Rob McClure.  When he graced the stage in Chaplin, I believe it was the wise Newsday journalist who penned "Welcome to the show that's going to make you a Broadway star". And a star he is indeed.   Mr. McClure is both nebbish and infectiously adorable.  He can sing to the rafters, dance, and of course act the pants off this rom-com that graces the Nederlander stage 8 shows a week.  While another Tony nod wouldn't be out of bounds, this show may not carry as much weight being a silly movie remake and all but if talent rules the day, he's a shoe-in.

I had a slightly difficult time thinking that Brynn O'Malley (Betsy Nolan) was actually the age they claim in the show, but that minor detail aside, she was a terrifically talented on-stage pawn in the game of Mr. Danza and Mr. McClure.

With a fine ensemble cast including Raymond J. Lee, George Merrick, Zachary Prince, and Nancy Opel (Bea Singer), if this show can sustain the winter blues, it just might make a splash this spring in the fun department in what is already lining up to be strong in the musical department.

 This is a show that will tour well even if it doesn't succeed on Broadway.  Des Moines - look out!