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Reviews, Cabaret Reviews and Film
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|Anika Noni Rose as Carmen Jones. Photo
by Joan Marcus.
At Classic Stage, splendid “Carmen
Jones” places black wartime workers in Bizet’s opera
“Win That War!” sing workers in a parachute factory in a town
about 1,000 miles south of Chicago. It’s a striking transformation
of Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen,” about a worker in
a Spanish cigar factory in 1820, to wartime US in 1943 with a book and
lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. The “Carmen” triangle is still
a sultry tangle between Carmen and a military guy, now army instead of
militia, and a big-time prize fighter replacing the toreador, the word
Bizet’s French opera invented to mean torero (bull fighter) because
it had the right syllables. Hammerstein reset the story with a black cast,
and this is the first major New York revival since its debut on Broadway
75 years ago. Elegantly directed by John Doyle, this is an intimate production
in the Classic Stage’s small theater in the square, a chamber opera
where you can practically touch the performers. By Lucy Komisar.
"Conflict" at the Beckett
In “Conflict” (1925), we meet Lady Dare Bellingdon (Jessie Shelton),
the spoiled daughter of a powerful, conservative father (a patrician Graeme
Malcolm). She lunches, she shops, she gossips, she clubs past 3 AM, and
Major Sir Ronald Clive (Henry Clarke), who plans to run for Parliament,
her beau, adores her. A homeless man, Tom Smith, (Jeremy Beck), who breaks
into her father’s London residence, will change her life. In rags,
he has come for a handout although he and Clive were once schoolmates at
Cambridge. Bellingdon and Clive condemn him roundly but offer generous alms.
Tom Smith’s next visit is even more surprising. By Glenda Frank.
Shelton and Jeremy Beck. Photo by Todd Cerveris
"The Dog in The Dressing Room"
at The Schoolhouse Theater
Who doesn’t love a backstage drama? The revelations behind the scenes
are the drama in favorites like “Phantom of the Opera,” “Kiss
Me Kate,” and “Noises Off.” “The Dog in the Dressing
Room,” a backstage comedy by Deborah Savadge, is now debuting at
The Schoolhouse Theatre, Westchester County’s longest running Equity
Theatre, on June 14 and will play through July 1. Games, secrets, old
wounds, stalking, champagne, a canine, and love play their parts in this
smashing comedy. By Glenda Frank.
|Caption: Felicia Finley and the company
"Songbird" at Two River
“Songbird” is based, subtly and effectively, on Russian dramatist
Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” an 1896 play you need
not have seen or read (or even heard of) in order to appreciate this multi-faceted
hoedown derivative. Coupled with Michael Kimmel’s affecting book
(and a nudge from a Century-plus-ago playwright), “Songbird”
is a rare blend of foot-stomping rhythms and heart-tugging emotions, that
Two River Theater Company is serving up with style. By Philip Dorian.
|Corey Stoll as Iago and Chukwudi Iwuji
as Othello, photo Joan Marcus.
Public Theater’s “Othello”
at Delacorte Theater
Shakespeare’s “Othello” at the Delacorte Theater in
Central Park seemed more about racism to me than it ever had before. Under
the clear, commanding direction of Ruben Santiago-Hudson and featuring
the mesmerizing, almost painfully gut-wrenching acting of Chukwudi Iwuji
as Othello, you imagine what a lifetime of racial slights has done to
his judgment and trust. By Lucy Komisar.
|Catherine (Maggie Horan), left, Eddie
(Rich O'Brien) and Beatrice (Claire Beckman). Photo courtesy of Brave
New World Repertory Theatre.
"A View From The Bridge"
on a barge in Red Hook
Brave New World specializes in site-specific productions, and mounting
“A View from the Bridge” on a barge actually afloat on the
Red Hook, Brooklyn waterfront, is inspired. The ‘Waterfront Museum
& Showboat Barge’ is covered over and cleaned up some from its
seafaring days, but its original weathered deck and spars are intact.
One can only wish that Miller, who died in 2005, were still around to
sneak up the gangplank into a performance. By Philip Dorian.
|Photo of Tony Yazbeck and Irina Dvorovenko
"The Beast in
the Jungle" at Vineyard Theatre
Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, this adaption of Henry James’s
1903 novella “The Beast in the Jungle” is a melancholy treatise
on unrealized romance and thwarted passion that unfolds in James’s
characteristically elaborate prose. The same-titled theater piece inspired
by the story is essentially a ballet, with intermittent narration and
some spare-dialogue passages. By Philip Dorian.
|TRAVESTIES -- Peter McDonald as James Joyce, Tom
Hollander as Henry Carr, Scarlett Strallen as Gwendolen and Sara Topham
as Cecily. Photo by Joan Marcus.
“Travesties” is a glorious kaleidoscope of famous people,
fiction and events that converge in Zurich during World War I and raise
questions about radical politics, the meaning of art, and the validity
of memory to link it all. By Lucy Komisar.
|J. Alphonse Nicholson and Kristolyn Lloyd. Photo
by Joan Marcus.
“Paradise Blue” focusses on what happens when a jazz joint
in Detroit’s Blackbotton neighborhood is thrown into turmoil thanks
to 1940s gentrification; the erratic behavior of Blue (J. Alphonse Nicholson),
the club owner; and the arrival of a sexy and dangerous woman named Silver
(Simone Missick). By Paulanne Simmons.
|Condola Rashad as Saint Joan. Photo by
Bernard Shaw was a feminist. And a religious skeptic. Who better than
to tell the story of Saint Joan? How do you do that when you are a socialist
and not a militarist? You focus on the hypocrisy of the religious establishment,
that had no problem with war, but only with who keeps power. By Lucy Komisar.
Two views of "My Fair Lady"
Paulanne Simmons writes that from Catherine Zuber’s
elegant costumes and Michael Yeargan’s sumptuous set, to the delightful
interpretation of Lerner and Loewe’s magnificent score brought to
life by Ted Sperling’s musical director, Robert Russell Bennett
and Phil Lang’s arrangements, and Marc Salzbeg’s sound design,
Lincoln Center’s “My Fair Lady” is a treat for the eyes
and ears. Lucy Komisar adds that this time there’s a feminist
kick. And some class solidarity. Bartlett Sher's progressive production
brings the musical back to its roots with references to the women's suffrage
movement. Sher is attentive to George Bernard Shaw's intentions to comment
on class disparity and social inequality. With wonderful direction, vocals,
and set design, this comedy of manners is sure to delight.
|Renee Fleming as Nettie Fowler and company. Photo
by Julieta Cervantes.
“Carousel” is a gorgeous show with a hokey, simplistic, no-politics
story, says Lucy Komisar. The vocals are thrilling, led by opera diva
Renée Fleming who presents her solos as if they were arias. And
the naturalistic sets by Santo Loquasto, from the top of the merry-go-round
to whaling boats in the sea and lobster cages are entrancing. It’s
a gorgeous show, if you forget the story.
|Brian Tree Henry as William, Beth Powley as Dawn,
Michael Cera as Jeff, Chris Evans as Bill. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Two views of "Lobby Hero"
It hardly seems possible that a play about murder, rape and police corruption
could be even remotely amusing. Yet, in many ways, Kenneth Lonergan’s
“Lobby Hero” might be the funniest show on Broadway this season.
Paulanne Simmons and Lucy Komisar weigh in.
|Glenda Jackson, Alison Pill and Laurie Metcalf in
"Three Tall Women." Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.
Two views of "Three
Tall Women," 2018
It’s only a few months before the 26th anniversary of the first
American appearance of Edward Albee’s masterpiece, "Three Tall
Women," yet we’ve seen surprisingly few revivals. It’s
admittedly difficult to perform, but hundreds of our high schools have
performed the extremely demanding constant dance numbers of "A Chorus
Line" without even one cast member who can really dance. Certainly
those who love Albee’s plays can rejoice at this masterful new version.
The legendary actress Glenda Jackson—who returned to the stage after
28 years in England’s Parliament and got raves playing King Lear
in Shakespeare’s play with The Royal Shakespeare Company—stars
with two admired, award-winning American actresses. And it’s gorgeously
designed (Miriam Buether) as well as excitingly directed by Joe Mantello,
one of Broadway’s most honored directors. Herbert Simpson and Lucy
Komisar weigh in ambivalently. Lucy writes she'd love to see a feminist
“Three Tall Women, Part 2.”
Gray as Papa Ge. Photo by Joan Marcus.
"Once on this Island" is a Gorgeous
Folk Opera About Color and Class in the Caribbean
Called a charming, surreal, and politically sharp-edged play, Lucy
Komisar advises audiences not to arrive late to this production. Full
of magical realism created by director Michael Arden, this charming folk
opera is about class and race. By Lucy Komisar.
Rylance as King Phillippe V in the Shakespeare's Globe production
of "Farinelli and the King." Photo by Joan Marcus.
Two Views of mark Rylance in "Farinelli
and the King"
Edward Rubin thought no one could rescue Rylance from his wobbly
and unsatisfing portrayal of Phillipe V. However, Lucy Komisar thought
this was a thrilling performane. See how the two compare. By Edward Rubin
and Lucy Komisar.
Lenk as Dina and Tony Shalhoub as Tewfiq in
The Band's Visit. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
"The Band's Visit"
When a musical transfers from off-Broadway to Broadway, there
are always a few essential questions. Will the production work on a bigger
stage? Will the sound fill a larger house? Will the show be true to the
original, even with new members in the cast? Happily, The Band’s
Visit, helmed by David Cromer, answers all these questions with a resounding
yes. By Paulanne Simmons.
|SPAMILTON: Putting down Phantom,
Aladdin and Cats. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
The fellow on stage looks familiar. He wears an 18th-century
blue coat and gold buttons and is rapping. In Alessandrini's "Spamilton",
an affectionate pastiche of Broadway heroes which will ring true with
any seasoned audience. Laugh along as Alessandrini spoofs on "The
Lion King," "Cats" and of course "Hamilton" itself.
If you can't get tickets to that particular constitutional classic, "Spamilton"
will keep you smiling for days. By Lucy Komisar.
|Bette Midler as Dolly Gallagher Levi and waiters at
the Harmonia Gardens. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.
Aaah, hmmm, but we'll bette you'll
love it too.
“Hello Dolly” with Bette Midler is outdated on feminism and
talent. But the audience loved every starpower minute of it. By Lucy Komisar.
|The famous helicopter escaping the fall
of Saigon, and Vietnamese desperate to get on it. Photo by Matthew Murphy
Miss Saigon is Back
Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil found worldwide success with
“Les Misérables,” a drama of the political. The personal
stories were of Jean Valjean, the man imprisoned for stealing a loaf of
bread, and the masses of the oppressed he represented. There was a minor
love story. But in “Miss Saigon,” the star-crossed lovers are
the major focus, with the crisis of America’s war in Vietnam and how
it destroyed the country just a backdrop. So, this play is often hokey and
not very satisfying. By Lucy Komisar.
|Tina Benko as Calpurnia, Gregg Henry, Teagle Bougere
as Casca and Elizabeth Marvel as Marc Antony. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The Public’s “Julius
Caesar” brilliantly trolls Donald Trump, and masses “resist”
Oskar Eustis, director of a mesmerizing Public Theater staging of Shakespeare’s
play about taking down an incipient dictator, says that “Julius
Caesar can be read as a warning parable to those who try to fight for
democracy by undemocratic means. To fight the tyrant does not mean imitating
him.” By Lucy Komisar.
|Serhiy Zhadan performing song inspired
by Timothy Snyder's book "On Tyranny." Photo by Waldemart
Zhadan & the Dogs
It is a truism to say that our present world is in turmoil. Most
of us are reeling from news about bombings, civil wars, millions of refugees
migrating over the face of the earth, while fanaticism, nationalism, racism,
xenophobia is grabbing the psyche of young and old. And the sense of political
impotence alternates with rage about signs of backsliding into tyrannical
modes of governance propped up by corruption and cronyism. However, a
fighting spirit has also emerged among peoples. The present production
at La Mama presented by the Yara Arts Group, conceived and directed by
Yara’s Artistic Director Virlana Tkacz, has brought together Ukrainian
and American performing artists that take us through a compendium of political
activism with music, movement, poetry and video imagery. By Beate Hein
|Gordon Palagi in "The Cooping Theory: Who Killed
Edgar Allan Poe?"
The Cooping Theory: Who Killed
Edgar Allan Poe?
Unlike most immersive experiences, “The Cooping Theory: Who Killed
Edgar Allan Poe?” offers not only sounds and sights but also a delicious
meal and craft cocktails. By Paulanne Simmons.
|Jonathan Sayer as the butler Perkins pouring liquor
down the phone. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
“The Play That Goes Wrong”
One of the stars of this play is not human. It’s the set for the
riotous slapstick comedy put on by (real) British actors about a disastrous
production of “The Murder at Haversham Manor” by a fakeuniversity
drama society. Sometimes slapstick is silly, but this is exceedingly clever.
By Lucy Komisar.
|Christy Altomare as Anya, and ghosts of the past. Photo
by Matthew Murphy.
Complex, fascinating and gorgeous, this fantasy tale of the young woman
who might be the surviving daughter of Czar Nicholas of Russia is a colorful
musical mystery with elegant singing, marvelous dancing and costumes that
light up the stage. With a book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen
Flaherty, and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, it features the top talents of Broadway.
That goes for director Darko Tresnjak and choreographer Peggy Hickey,
who have “big Broadway show” written all over them. “Anastasia”
a fine colorful big-musical Russian Romanov princess fantasy. By Lucy
2 Views of“Come From away"
“Come from Away,” a new musical by Irene Sankoff
and David Hein at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, is based on the true
story of the almost 7,000 stranded passengers from 38 flights who were
not permitted to cross into the United States on Sept. 11 and landed in
the small town of Gander, population 9,000. By Glenda Frank and Lucy Komisar.
|Nick Cordero as Sonny, Hudson Loverro as Calogero.
Photo by Joan Marcus.
“A Bronx Tale"
It’s a knock off of “West Side Story,” here
Italians vs blacks, and very hokey, but “A Bronx Tale” has a
certain charm and pizazz nonetheless. The place is Bedford Avenue, tenements
with fire escapes and pushcarts. And kids singing doo-wop. They are working
class Italians, circa 1960.“A Bronx Tale” is musical coming
of age with a twist: kid grows up among hoodlums By Lucy Komisar.
| Katrina Lenk as Dina, Tony Shalhoub as the conductor.
Photo by Ahron R. Foster.
“The Band’s Visit."
An Egyptian police band, the grandly named Alexandria Ceremonial
Police Orchestra, is supposed to play at an Arab cultural center in Israel,
but gets the town’s name wrong at the bus station and ends up in
an Israeli backwater. “The Band’s Visit” is a charming
gem about human connections across political divides. By Lucy Komisar.
"A Bronx Tale"
Since “A Bronx Tale” has already been a solo show
and a film, it might have been inevitable that it eventually become a
musical. This is not necessarily a terrible thing. In fact, the show currently
at the Longacre Theater is not at all bad. By Paulanne Simmons.
museums by day,
theater by night
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