Taylor as Ann Richards. Photo by Ave Bonar.
Taylor Shines as Governor of the Lone Star State
By Paulanne Simmons
Several years ago I sat next to former Texas governor Ann
Richards at the theater. She was next to her friend, columnist Liz
Smith. What were these two prominent individuals talking about during
intermission? Grandchildren! In Holland Taylor’s solo show,
"Ann," directed by Benjamin Endsley Klein, grandchildren
also have a strong presence. But so do Richards’ children, husband
and parents. Taylor’s beautifully written and performed show
succeeds because it gives us a personal view of a public figure.
“Ann,” Holland Taylor Channels Texas Governor Ann Richards
as if She Were Here Today
By Lucy Komisar
“Ann” is a very fine solo play written and
acted by Holland Taylor. Her accent and demeanor are spot-on. But
the other value of the production is how close it gets to Richards
and what it has to say. Ann Richards would think she was looking into
Bailey Ryon, Milly Shapiro, Sophia Gennusa and Oona Laurence in
"Matilda." Photo by Joan Marcus.
"Matilda," a Smashing
Political Allegory about Confronting Authoritarianism
A hit Broadway musical in favor of intellectualism and rebellion,
that’s a welcome surprise in New York where this season’s
best new musicals about people who challenged the system – “Chaplin”
and “Scandalous” (about Aimee Semple McPherson) —
had short runs. Though of course, this production comes from London
and it’s a fantasy, not about real events. Well, not about overtly
political events. But it’s about stultifying intellectual repression.
From the point of view of children! If you have kids, take them. And
if you don’t, go anyway. It’s a play for adults, too.
By Lucy Komisar.
The Motown Beat
Takes Over Broadway
Although “Motown: The Musical” has a slim book, it’s
stuffed with all the great hits a child of the sixties could ever
want. By Paulanne Simmons.
in "The Nance." Photo by Joan Marcus.
By the late 1930s, when Douglas Carter Beane’s “The Nance,”
takes place, vaudeville was pretty much dead, and its naughty cousin,
burlesque, was on life support. Yet vaudeville and burlesque were
for many years the principal forms of entertainment for many Americans.
It is a period of time that deserves to be remembered and celebrated.
And so it is in this entertaining and thought-provoking drama. By
IT'S YOU--Beth Leavel as Florence Greenberg. Photo by Ari Mintz.
You!" is a Fascinating and Entertaining Feminist Juke Box Musical
This is a terrific feminist juke box musical. It is based on
the true story of Florence Greenberg (the excellent Beth Leavel),
a New Jersey housewife who discovered the Shirelles, four Passaic,
NJ, high school coeds, who she would make into a major singing group.
She would, in the process, move to Manhattan, shed her traditional
husband and take up with a young song writer. This was in 1958, before
feminism became a mass movement. Also before Motown, before the Beatles.
The visionary Flo and pop music would never be the same. By Lucy Komisar
Tennessee Williams Work Gets Tender Treatment
“One Arm,” an unproduced screenplay by Tennessee Williams,
is certainly not the best of the famed playwright’s work. But
even when Williams is not at his best, he’s much better than
most writers. And given Moises’ Kaufman’s skillful adaptation
and direction, the play, about Ollie Olsen, a one-armed boxer turned
hustler, becomes a moving commentary on life and love. By Paulanne
MOTHERF**KER WITH THE HAT--Bobby Cannavale as Jackie, Elizabeth
Rodriguez as Veronica. Photo by Joan Marcus.
with the Hat"
Stephen Adly Guirgis' play is a very funny, ironic, grungy and cautionary
tale where four-letter words, sex and betrayal are mixed in equal
parts in the down and dirty milieu of New York City drug addicts and
their relatives and friends. By Lucy Komisar.
YESTERDAY--Jim Belushi as Harry Brock, Terry Beaver as Senator
Hedges, Frank Wood as lawyer Devery. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Garson Kanin’s 1946 comedy is a delightfully clever political
romp which pits a crooked businessman and a bought U.S. Senator against
a supposedly dumb kept woman who gives everyone a civics lesson while
taking the bad guys down a few notches. By Lucy Komisar.
HOUSE OF BLUE LEAVES--Ben Stiller as Artie, Alison Pill as Corrinna.
Photo by Joan Marcus.
of Blue Leaves"
John Guare's 1970 dark comedy, in a brilliant revival by David Cromer,
shifts between humor and tragedy as it traces the path from illusion
to delusion. As one morphs into the other, the differences appear
increasingly subtle. By Lucy Komisar.
PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE--Donna Murphy as Raisel and Christopher
Innvar as Chaim Bradovsky. Photo by Joan Marcus.
in the Picture"
It was 1935 Warsaw, and a small traveling troop of Jewish actors were
playing the "shtetl circuit," as they half affectionately,
half mockingly called it. They did vaudeville, they did Shakespeare,
they did the Bible. Raisel (Donna Murphy) as Moses' wife: "You're
going to do what? You can't even part your hair!" The times are
dark and the troop's responses reach for answers in absurdity: "A
pogrom is not an easy act to follow." By Lucy Komisar.
MINISTER'S WIFE--Kate Fry as Candida, Marc Kudisch as Rev. Morrell.
Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Michael Halberstam’s chamber music version of Shaw’s “Candida”
is a charming and exhilarating production about male-female relations
in earlier days of the battle for women’s sexual freedom. The
story is adapted by Austin Pendleton from Shaw’s 1898 version
of the play, which he revised in 1930, when post-flapper era so much
in society had changed. At the turn of the century, women were even
more psychologically and materially dependent on their husbands. By
TIGER AT THE BAGHDAD ZOO--Robin Williams as the Tiger.Photo by
at the Baghdad Zoo"
Surreal, sometimes funny, often cruel, Rajiv Joseph's play
in a stunning production by Moisés Kaufman looks at killing,
in war, and among beasts, and wonders if it is a primordial instinct,
something that somehow infects people who think they "don't do
that." It is a powerful production, not your typical war story,
as the murder victims come back as ghosts. By Lucy Komisar.
Bel Powley as Thomasina Covery, Tom Riley as Septimus Hodge. Photo
by Carol Rosegg.
Tom Stoppard's 1993 "Arcadia" plays with truth
and illusion and shows how easy it is to be deceived. It sets true
intellectuals devoted to search and discovery against glory-seeking
"scholars" who invent convenient truths. Stoppard, as he
is good at doing, mixes truth about historical figures with fantasy
about their connections with the protagonists in a way that adds to
the fascination of the plot. By Lucy Komisar.
PEOPLE-- Becky Ann Baker as Jean, Frances McDormand as Margaret,
Estelle Parsons as Dottie. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The struggles of the working class are starkly depicted in David Lindsay-Abaire's
striking portrait of a handful of friends in Boston's Southie neighborhood.
At a time when economic decisions by the government leave millions
of workers in the dust, it's a political as well as social commentary.
"Good People" directed by Daniel Sullivan plays at Samuel
J. Friedman Theatre. By Lucy Komisar.
QUEEN OF THE DESERT-- Priscilla Will, Tony & Nick. Photo by
Queen of the Desert"
Broadway's "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" by Stephan Elliot
& Allan Scott, funny, touching, and over the
top in its inventiveness, to use a lyric from A Chorus Line song,
is "One Long Singular Sensation," one that almost had the
audience, the night I attended, dancing in the aisles. In fact,
one highly energetic young lady, obviously electrified by
the highly amplified disco music, did just that. Well, almost. She
stood up in her seat, wiggled her body and wildly waved her arms until
the man behind her yelled for her to sit down. So wrapped up in "It's
Raining Men", the musical's opening number, it took several shout
outs for her to get the message. Even seated, like others in the audience
– me for instance – she continued to twist and sway throughout
each musical number during the shows two and a half frenzied hours.
The performance plays at The Palace Theatre,
choreographed by Ross Colemanand and directed by Simon Phillips.
By Edward Rubin.
DAISY -- Vanessa Redgrave as Miss Daisy, James Earl Jones as Hoke.
Photo by Annabel Clark.
Alfred Uhry's charming, moving play "Driving Miss Daisy"
directed by David Esbjornson at John Golden Theatre, is part of his
Atlanta trilogy about Southern Jews in the middle decades of the last
century. Through the conflict and then growing warmth between an elderly
middle-class white woman and a middle-aged working-class black man,
one gets a sense of how human contact can break or at least crack
the barriers of color and class. The production is a tour de force
for Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones. By Lucy Komisar
Feldshuh appeared at "Town Hall at 90," a benefit concert
to celebrate the institution's 90th birthday on May 2, 2011. Photo
by Jonathan Slaff.
Hall Celebrates 90 Years of Culture and Entertainment
Town hall is 90 years old this year, and many
award-winning stars helped celebrate. And to commemorate the milestone,
President Marvin Leffler held a big bash on May 2, hosted by Scott
Siegel, creator/writer of The Town Hall’s Broadway By the Year
series. Indeed the anniversary gala featured a lineup of stars worthy
of the event, beginning with Tovah Feldshuh singing a “Town
Hall Medley” with music and lyrics by Gershwin and Styne, with
a little help from Feldshuh. By Paulanne Simmons.
HORSE -- Seth Numrich in a scene from the National Theater of
Great Britain. Photo by Paul Kolnik
Horse Is a Children's Story for Adults
Not since Journey's End was revived in 2007 has Broadway seen such
a searing depiction of World War I as National Theatre of Great Britain's
War Horse, now at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. By Paulanne Simmons.
"The MotherF**ker with the Hat" by
Stephen Adly Guirgis
Life is difficult. Love is harder. First he finds the hat. Then he
finds the wrong motherf**er with the hat -- and shoots up his apt.
By the time he finds the right motherf**er, it's too late for love
-- and he's headed back to jail. Guergis's foul mouthed, brilliant,
and funny funny 4G comedy is changing our definition of Broadway drama,
bringing in new audiences -- some of them to see Chris Rock in his
Broadway debut -- and proving that the best playwriting can be about
anything."The MotherF**ker with
the Hat" directed by Anna D. Shapiro, is playing at the
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. By Glenda Frank.
BOOK OF MORMON--Pictured (L to R): Rerna Webb, Andrew Rannells,
Josh Gad. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The Book Of
Mormon Raises Holy Hell
"The Book of Mormon" playing at Eugene O'Neill Theatre,
written by Trey Parker and Matt Stoneby, the creators of "South
Park", is not for the straight-laced, as a brief look at the
plot reveals: Two Mormon Missionaries Elder Price (Andrew Rannells)
and Elder Cunningham (Josh Gad), the first a self-centered idealist,
the second a chubby misfit, are sent to Uganda to convert the native
population. In Uganda they settle in a village ravaged by AIDS and
threatened by a local warlord with an unprintable name. The villagers
cheer themselves up by singing a song with lyrics that are also unprintable.
By Paulanne Simmons.
IDIOT--Michael Esper as Will, Stark Sands as Tunny and John Gallagher
Jr. as Johnny, Paul Kolnik.
This vibrant rock production about youthful rebellion in the face
of a fraudulent society is in the tradition of "Hair." But
it's not "Hair" with the memorable tunes that we still remember
decade later; it's more like MTV. Fast, often driving, and the kind
of hard rock of the 28 Green Day tunes that doesn't much distinguish
it from anything else of that genre. By Lucy Komisar.
QUEEN OF THE DESERT -- (l-r) Will Swenson, Nick Adams, Tony Sheldon
and the cast of the Broadway-bound musical, now playing Toronto’s
Princess of Wales Theatre through January 2, 2011. Broadway previews
begin February 28 at The Palace Theatre for a March 20 opening.
Photo: Joan Marcus.
"Priscilla, Queen of the Desert"
"Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," currently wowing audiences
at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto before it moves to Broadway
this spring, is a grand and gloriously eye-popping musical extravaganza
with more than a dollop of sentimentality. It is also just about the
gayest theatrical production cum Las Vegas nightclub act to tread
the boards of mainstream theatredom. From its countless show-stopping,
gay anthem-filled musical numbers, both sung and lip-synched –
It's Raining Men opens the show – to Tim Chappel's and Lizzy
Gardiner's over the top Lady Gaga lookalike costumes, Brian Thomson's
fantabulous multilayered sets, scantily clad muscle boys, drag queens,
and gay-tinged, smut-laden zingers delivered at breakneck speed by
its three starring divas, it makes "La Cage aux Folles"
seem like a Episcopalian wake. By Edward Rubin.
ENCOUNTER -- Hannah Yelland as Laura and Tirstan Sturrock as Alec,
enjoy new love in a rowboat. Photo Joan Marcus.
I can't remember when I've seen a play as hokey and charming and full
of fun as "Brief Encounter." Okay, I take that back. It
was "The 39 Steps." But not surprising, it is also a spoof
of an iconic British film, that one by Alfred Hitchcock. This one
is by Noël Coward. If you want to have a very good time, go to
this production. But notice the deeper meaning underneath it all.
By Lucy Komisar.
BÊTE--Mark Rylance as Valere, Joanna Lumley as Princess
and David Hyde Pierce as Elomire. Photo by Joan Marcus.
is a devastating satire about the domination of low culture
The corruption of culture is the theme of this searing and wildly
funny satire written by David Hirson in 1991 and, alas, ever more
appropriate today. Mark Rylance is dazzling in the role of Valere,
a gross, foppish, foolish street performer who threatens the high
art of the theater troop directed by Elomire (David Hyde Pierce),
a stand-in for Molière, who was a court playwright. By Lucy
Washington and Viola Davis. Photo by Joan Marcus.
What happens when the victim becomes the victimizer? When
a man's spirit is so thwarted that he turns hard in his soul and becomes
so self-centered that he can't love or care for anyone else? It's
the message of August Wilson's tough 1983 play set in the late fifties
that attempts to explain the dysfunctional working class black men
who were being studied to death. By Lucy Komisar.
LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC--Catherine Zeta-Jones as Desirée, Photo
by Joan Marcus.
This almost tongue-in-cheek celebration of sex would imply that passion
begets foolishness, especially among men. As we watch the absurdly
shifting liaisons and desires among the mostly upper class protagonists,
we understand the genesis of the play's famous song performed by the
actress Desirée (Catherine Zeta-Jones), "Quick, send in
the clowns. Don't bother, they're here." By Lucy Komisar.
-- (L-R) David Pittu as 'Nate,'Remy Auberjonois as 'Armin/Edward
Coke' and David Furr as 'Sharpe.' Photo by Joan Marcus.
In "Equivocation," Cain imagines what might have
happened if King James I had asked Shakespeare to write a play about
the failed attempt to blow up parliament known as the Gunpowder Plot.
By Paulanne Simmons.
VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE -- Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Spector.
Photo by Joan Marcus.
"A View From
Arthur Miller's story of the betrayal that tears apart a longshore
family in Brooklyn was a metaphor for the treachery of the people
who "named names" in the anti-communist witch hunts of the
1950s. Miller was particularly angry at director Elia Kazan, with
whom he had worked. In 1956, Miller was subpoenaed by the House Un-American
Activities Committee and cited for contempt of Congress for refusing
to identify writers he had met at one of two communist writers' meetings
he had attended years before. That same year, "A View From the
Bridge" opened on Broadway. By Lucy Komisar.
STANDS STILL -- Eric Bogosian and Alicia Silverstone. Photo by
Donald Margulies's powerful and moving play dissects the professional
and psychological passion of a photographer who covers the horrors
of wars, famine, and genocide. "Time stands still" represents
the moment when she presses the shutter button and sees the world
only through the view finder. Time stops, sound cuts out; her experience
is just what is taking place in the rectangle. There is an objectifying
and separation from reality. And for Sarah Goodwin (Laura Linney)
it's the only moment in life that counts. By Lucy Komisar.
SIDE STORY -- The Sharks girls. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The free-floating anger exuded by the "Jets" and "Sharks"
as they clash under and leap onto fire escapes is combustible. Any
reason for the gangs' free-floating hostility? Well, when Officer
Krupke (Lee Sellars) arrives in the neighborhood, along the Hudson
River on the Upper West Side of New York City, he slams one kid in
the stomach with a Billy club. Lt. Schrank (Steve Bassett) comes into
a local drugstore and insults the Puerto Ricans as migrant scum. The
sociological stage is set. There's nothing dated about Arthur Laurents'
revival of his own "West Side Story." This American theater
classic is another proof that the best, most enduring musicals (and
plays) combine personal stories with political ones. By Lucy Komisar.
-- Byrce Ryness and cast pulling up their hair. Photo by Michal
is simplistic politics but a joyous celebration of the 60s counterculture
My guest at "Hair" was an old friend who had been
a leader of the 1968 protest movement in Germany. As we left the theater,
he shook his head. He said, "We were much more political."
That said, and history corrected, Diane Paulus's revival of the 1968
musical now on Broadway captures the mood of part of a generation
of young people (a minority of their contemporaries) that helped change
the culture. By Lucy Komisar.
RAINBOW -- Terri White, Guy Davis & Ensemble. Photo by Joan
This charmingly radical musical by Yip Harburg and Fred Saidy –
given a smart, lively, delicious staging by Warren Carlyle -- was
a shot across the bow of conservative America when it opened on Broadway
in 1947. It showed black and white sharecroppers in solidarity against
the tax foreclosure sale of a farm. It depicted the corruption and
racism of a white politician who is buying up local real estate so
he can block cheap public electric power. And it satirized capitalism
by declaring that digging up some gold buried in the ground would
remove an incentive and wreck free enterprise. Even the famous "If
this isn't love" has the pointed line, "If this isn't love,
it's red propaganda!" By Lucy Komisar.
DRINKING -- Carrie Fisher and Leia from Star Wars. Photo by Joan
Drinking" is Carrie Fisher’s autobiography, a stage version
of bad tell-all late night TV
"Wishful Drinking" is Carrie Fisher's self-referential one-woman
staged pop autobiography is based largely on the famous people she
interacted with through her life, starting with her parents, Eddie
Fisher and what's her name? Oh, Debbie Reynolds. It's been so long.
The play is rather like bad tell-all late night TV. By Lucy Komisar
THE FLOORTrent Whiddon, Patrick Helm, Damian Whitewood, Robin
Windsor, Sasha Farber, Peta Murgatroyd, Henry Byalkov. Photo by
Floor" presents exciting competitive ballroom dancing with a
"Burn the Floor" is an exciting review of ballroom dancing
through the decades, from Latin and Afro-Brazilian rhythms to modern
jazzy idioms. Through you never saw any of this in a real ballroom.
The numbers, the wild fast movements, come out of the competitive
dancing that these couples have done all over the world. By Lucy Komisar.
-- Robert Petkoff as Tateh, Sarah Rosenthal as his daughter, and
other immigrants. Photo by Joan Marcus.
"Ragtime" is a cinematic, visionary, heart-stopping view
of America of the early 1900s. The power and sweep of the bittersweet
mix of true history and invention take your breath away. The characters
are meant to be symbols, as the play mixes real people with invented
ones, true events with imaginary ones. Fictional people come from
three families—upper-middle class, white Anglo-Saxon Protestant,
socialist immigrant Jewish from Latvia, and Harlem black – who
represent American dreams and the tragedies that ensued during the
struggle for justice. They play also shows the transformative power
of the new 20th century. By Lucy Komisar.
-- Montego Glover & Chad Kimball as Felicia & Huey. Photo
by Joan Marcus.
is a vibrant back story of the Rhythm & Blues on Beale Street
in the 50s.
"Memphis," book by Joe DiPietro, music by David Bryan, and
lyrics by both, is a vibrant sometimes hokey but visually exciting
story musical with terrific sounds that range from rhythm and blues
to gospel. It's a social and political back story of Rhythm &
Blues. It's 1951 on Beale Street. And Huey (Chad Kimball) wanders
into a hot music joint He's found the music of his soul. The only
problem is that he's in the black part of town and he's white. By
THE MUSICAL -- Sutton Foster as Princess Fiona and dancers. Photo
by Joan Marcus.
"Shrek the Musical"
"Shrek the Musical" is a kids musical with clever jokes
& lyrics for adults. There's a genre of musicals that is supposed
to be for kids, but is just as much for adults. I include "The
Lion King" and "Wicked" and now "Shrek the Musical."
I loved them all. What they have in common is strong moral politics.
The characters in the first play fight oppression, the second combat
racism and Shrek does a bit of both. Like the others, it proves that
shows about ideas are more interesting and fun than empty-headed fluff.
By Lucy Komisar.
STEADY RAIN--Hugh Jackman & Daniel Craig. Photo by Joan
"A Steady Rain" is a thriller about two beat cops,
partners, friends from childhood, that would seem to belong on TV.
On the other hand, some of the events they describe are so bloody,
that I'd rather see them described in the two interlocking monologues
that make up the play rather than watch them in full color. By Lucy
JULIE--' Jonny Lee Miller and Marin Ireland. Photo by Joan Marcus.
"After Miss Julie" a psychological thriller,
a rich drama has three characters enmeshed in a web of conflicts that
shift the upper hand from one to the other, depending on whether the
field of battle is class or sex. It is a riveting play where the power
of class and gender fight for primacy. By Lucy Komisar
Battiste, Wendell Pierce, Alano Miller. Photo by T Charles Erickson.
"Broke-ology" is a sometimes appealing, sometimes corny
look at the dynamics of being loyal to your family and also loyal
to yourself. It also examines the science of being a family. By Lucy
-- Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jude Law. Photo by Johan Persson.
Jude Law brings a pulsating animal energy to Shakespeare's tragedy,
not the tentative or tormented like the Hamlets we are used to. This
"Hamlet" is a thriller and Hamlet the vengeful detective.
The excitement is palpable. By Lucy Komisar.
the Floor" -- photo by Kevin Berne
Burn the Floor
Having been an exhibition dancer during my teens and an Arthur Murray
ballroom dancing instructor while at college (they were desperate
for young men to move fat ladies across the floor), "Burn the
Floor" had me sitting both ecstatically and nostalgically on
the edge of my seat for nearly two hours. By Edward Rubin.
Political history aside, the play while historically misleading gives
two actors, Jane Mcteer and Harriet Walte,r an opportunity to act
up a storm. And they do. Each has a big scene, and each dominates
the stage in her own way. By Margaret Croyden.
Dolls Company. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
"Guys and Dolls" proves the score's the king in classic
Broadway musicals. This revival of the 1950 musical comedy about a
Salvation Army missionary who reforms a couple of hard-boiled but
appealing gamblers shows why the show was a smash. By Lucy Komisar.
Kowalik as Billy Elliot and Ballet Girls. Photo by Alastair Muir.
Billy Elliot The
"Billy Elliot, The Musical" is an appeal for solidarity
and freedom. This Lee Hall-Elton John musical is a lively, moving,
exhilarating production that recounts the impact of the British miners'
strike of the mid-80s . It also asserts the right of an individual
to express himself, his dreams and his art. By Lucy Komisar.
After one children's picture book (by the prolific William
Steig) and three movies, one would think the Shrek franchise was near
its end. Then along comes "Shrek the Musical," and we find
out it has a healthy future. By Paulanne Simmons.
| PAL JOEY--Stockard
Channing and Matthew Risch. Photo by Joan Marcus.
a cynical musical about a womanizing con man, rings true today.
Con men make good anti-heroes. At a time when the country is focused
on a spectacular one that cheated people of billions, it's instructive
to take a look at the genre. "Pal Joey," the Richard Rodgers-Lorenz
Hart 1940 musical given a moody revival by director Joe Mantello at
the Roundabout Theatre, is about a sleazy character on the make for
money and success. By Lucy Komisar.
Griffiths and Daniel Radcliffe at Broadhurst Theatre, through
February 8, 2009 . Photo by Carol Rosegg.
is a powerful mystery of a youth caught in a conflict of religion
"Equus" by Peter Shaffer (1973) is vividly directed by Thea
Sharrock in its current revival. A troubled 17-year-old youth, Alan
Strang (Daniel Radcliffe) is brought by a judge (Kate Mulgew) to the
office of an overworked psychiatrist in a provincial hospital in southern
England. He has blinded a stable of six horses. Slowly, through importuning,
bribes of small gifts and even hypnotism, the psychiatrist, Martin
Dysart (Richard Griffiths) gets him to see through his nightmares
and tell what brought him to commit this horror. By Lucy Komisar.
PLOW -- L to R: Raul Esparza, Jeremy Piven, Elisabeth Moss. Photo
by Brigitte Lancombe.
story of why Hollywood produces junk
At a time in the U.S. when most films seem made for retarded 13-year-olds,
this revival of David Mamet's 1988 "Speed the Plow" is right
on target. It's a satire on Hollywood moguls on the make for money
and success, which they see strewn along the paths of titillating
sex and violence. Hey, how else to get a lunch table at the town's
favored watering hole? Who will win the battle for movieland? The
young producer who dreams of dollar signs in his future hyperventilates:
"If they can't put it in TV Guide, you can't make the film."
By Lucy Komisar.
MY SONS--Katie Holmes and Patrick Wilson. Photo by Joan Marcus.
"All My Sons"
Arthur Miller's play about corporate corruption never goes out of
fashion. As a theater device, he focused on a small factory owned
by one man, but you can take this as a representation of what went
on and what goes on when anything goes in business. Profits trump
morals. The victims are all of us, which is what the title means.
Simon McBurney's production is smooth and riveting. By Lucy Komisar.
Chenoweth and Idina Menze. Photo by Joan Marcus.
This behind the scenes revisionist view of "The Wizard of Oz"
is a political allegory about racism and discrimination. It's fascinating
as a literary work and stunning as theater. Based on the novel by
Winnie Holzman, it's an updated Animal Farm. It's a play that exists
on two levels, one for the kids and another for adults, who will find
it intellectually stimulating. It's Oz before Dorothy got there. By
"The 39 Steps," Adapted by Patrick Barlow
Be prepared to be amused by the delightful production of "The
39 Steps." If you are old enough to remember Alfred Hitchcock's
fabulous script, its intricate design, its suspense, and amusing chase
between the hero and the spy masters, then you will certainly appreciate
this spoof of Hitchcock. Adapted from a book by John Buchan, and directed
by the brilliant and innovative Maria Aitken, the play runs a mere
two hours and flies by as though twenty minutes. Imagine three man
and a single woman playing all the roles that encompasses the entire
movie from the beginning to the end. And this they do so brilliantly
that it is impossible to tell that the actors are playing multiple
characters. By Margaret Croyden.
-- Photo by Paul Kolnik.
As the quintessential stage mother who launched Gypsy Rose Lee on
her career, Patti LuPone is brassy and vulnerable, calm and frenetic,
distracted and intense. Her voice fills the theater and her heart
takes over the stage. From the moment she steps onto the stage at
the St. James Theatre, it's obvious she's going to make this role
totally her own. Who could ask for more? By Paulanne Simmons.
is sexed-up Sesame Street
"Avenue Q" has been hailed as the first big hit of the season,
a season that has started in the middle of the summer, when it is
very hard to have a hit. "Avenue Q " is a lively musical
comedy about the hip-hop generation and all that this entails. A group
of young people live on Avenue Q, and each is a type with a story
to tell. And unto the bargain that story is sung and dramatized by
characters manipulating their puppets right out in the open. No shadow
play here. The puppets are hand held and strings are pulled right
in front of us.
Believe it or Not, but Glenn Loney had no idea who Frankie Valli &
the Four Seasons were before he saw this dynamic show. Nor was he
looking forward to it: Would it be as disappointing as Lennon? As
bad as Good Vibrations and the Beach Boys? Not at all: It is a super-charged
show, with an ingenious book by the witty Marshall Brickman and Rick
Elice. None of this "And then he wrote, and then he wrote…"
It is very effectively staged by Des McAnuff, who premiered it at
his La Jolla Playhouse.
With the fabulous costumes and constantly moving set-props of Mark
Thompson, it could have been quite as good as a Giant Choreographed
Concert in Costumes. Given high-octane energy, of course, by a dynamic
cast, led by Louise Pitre. By Glenn Loney.
LIAISONS DANGEREUSES--Laura Linney and Ben Daniels. Photo by Joan
Les Liaisons dangereuses
Christopher Hampton's "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" is based
on the epistolary novel by the Frenchman, Choderlos de Laclos who
wrote the book in 1782. Hampton's adaptation was first produced in
l987, followed by the movie, 1988. The film achieved a good deal of
attention and was a huge success, particularly for the work of Glen
Close and John Malkovich in the leads. In this current production
both Laura Linney and Ben Daniels as the two unscrupulous schemers
are miscast. Which leaves the play an empty shell. By Margaret Croyden.
Rylance and Kathryn Hahn. Photo by Joan Marcus.
A few minutes into the play, buoyantly directed by Matthew Warchus,
the plot is revealed. Bernard (Bradley Whitford), an attractive, self-assured
bachelor, has three girlfriends. "Less than three would be monotonous;
more than three is way too tiring." All are airline hostesses,
and all think he's going to marry them. "Boeing-Boeing"
is filled with double entendres, misunderstandings, near misses and
high jinx. It takes a while for "Boeing-Boeing" to get off
the ground, but once it takes off, the show is non-stop hilarity.
By Paulanne Simmons.
cast of "Cry Baby" by Mark Brokaw. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Broadway's exuberant new musical, "Cry-Baby"
opens at an anti-Polio picnic in Baltimore. It's 1954, and Mrs. Vernon-Williams
(the always magnificent Harriet Harris) presides over a group of wholesome,
all-American teenagers, the girls wearing flared skirts, the boys
wearing identical sweaters. They sing an innocent 50s number about
the joys of inoculation. By Paulanne Simmons.
ME KATE-- Paper Mill Playhouse, Photo by Gerry Goodstein, Left
to Right, Liz Kimball, Elliott Bradley, Gary Lynch (Pops), Stephen
Carrasco (Hortensio), Wes Hart (Gremio), Katie Hagen, Kyle Vaughn
and Desirée Davar
Kiss Me Kate
"Kiss Me Kate" is the ultimate backstage musical in that
it integrates the show-within-the show better than anybody had done
before or has done since. Based on Shakespeare's comedy, "The
Taming of the Shrew," the musical shows how the hero, Fred Graham
(Mike McGowan) manages to tame his woman, his former wife, Lilli Vanessi
(Michele Ragusa), both onstage when she plays Kate, the shrew, and
offstage as the temperamental diva. By Paulanne Simmons.
Sunday In the Park With
George, the musical
By now everyone knows the story of this famous Stephen Sondheim's
musical ( for this its third revival) that deals with Georges Seurat's
remarkable pointillist painting of "A Sunday Afternoon on the
Island of La Grande Jatte." Using the painting as a background
(actually the main subject), Sondheim ingeniously attempts to dissect
Seurat's egomaniacal obsession with his art, an obsession that leads
to the painter's neglect of mother, lover, child, friend--anyone who
may distract him from his all consuming, passionate commitment to
painting. The most inventive aspect of this production is not so much
its story (although that is fascinating too) but the director's (Sam
Buntrock) use of modern technology: computerized images, digital projections,
clever animations that show the painting coming to life, its beginning,
its progress and its glorious end.
THE HEIGHTS -- Lin-Manuel Miranda (center). Photo by Joan Marcus.
Set in Washington Heights, "In the Heights" celebrates in
hip-hop and Latin music the ethnic diversity of a neighborhood that
has seen radical changes in the past few decades. Now on Broadway.
By Paulanne Simmons.
COLOR PURPLE-- Victor Dixon, Felicia Fields. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Color Me Purple
"The Color Purple" is a woman's musical cry of rage. It's
a poignant, brassy, bluesy, R&B & gospel melodrama, an operetta-style
protest in the tradition of "Porgy and Bess." By Lucy Komisar.
PYTHONS SPAMALOT--(L-R) Michael McGrath, Tim Curry. Photo
by Joan Marcus.
There's nothing like an outrageous political satire written by left-wing
Brits! John Patrick Shanley, who won this year's Pulitzer Prize for
"Doubt," wondered at a Drama Desk panel on theater and politics,
which I moderated last year, why most plays were written by people
on the left. The puzzle wasn't solved, but 'Monty Python's Spamalot'
proves how lucky we are that it's true. And that Brits still have
a vital leftist culture. By Lucy Komisar.
FOR MORE BROADWAY COVERAGE
See Loney's Show Notes
and Croyden's Corner
in our Lobby and Columnists
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