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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 Theater
Jessie Shelton and Jeremy Beck. Photo by Todd Cerveris
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.



"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 of "Songbird"

"Songbird" at Two River Theater
“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.




Stoppard's "Travesties"
“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
“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 Joan Marcus.



Saint Joan
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.”


Tamyra 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.


Mark 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.





Katrina 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 Klyuzko.

1917-2017: Tychyna, Zhadan & the Dogs
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 Bennett.


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 Komisar.



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.


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