Theater Review

Solid Shaw: Bernard Shaw's Man & Superman

Man and Superman
The Irish Repertory Theatre, NY

Anyone looking to witness a professional production of George Bernard Shaw's challenging Man and Superman that executes the obstacles that lay before it in a steady and effective way should see this current production at The Irish Repertory Theatre. With few flaws outside those arguably imbedded in the text itself, Mr. Shaw is given a fair opportunity to openly speak his mind. Read more »

Presidential Game of Beat the Clock

The President
by Ferenc Molnár (Adapted by Morwyn Brebner)

When was the last time you attended a stage play, of any variety, that fully utilized 23 spirited professional actors? Storm Theater Company gives us the opportunity to see this in an excellent production of The President, a madcap farce resurrected intact from olden days when large and varied casts were customary. As then, The President gives each supporting actor a moment of undivided focus, in concert with great comic performances by the principals. Read more »

Smash: Broadway Musical World Comes to Network TV

I probably speak for most theater fans in saying I was excited when I read about Smash before its premiere on NBC in February. The idea of a weekly network series depicting the development of a new Broadway musical was irresistible. The fact that so many theater people -- both on and off camera -- were involved in the show added to the anticipation. Executive producers included Craig Zadan and Neil Meron who, among other things, have produced film versions of Broadway hits Chicago and Hairspray, along with television movie adaptations of The Music Man, Annie, and Gypsy. Original songs were written by the team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who won the Tony award for their Hairspray score, and also wrote the fine score for last year's Catch Me If You Can. Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening and American Idiot) directed the pilot. And, while not a theater name, the legendary Steven Spielberg is one of the executive producers. Read more »

Percolating: Coffee, the Musical

Coffee, the Musical
NYC Coffee and Tea Festival

All serious theatrical works go through many stages on the road to a full-fledged production. Opening night audiences have it easy: They just sit back, watch, and listen. Prior to the first notes of the overture and that moment of “curtain up,” a production team has worked intensely hard, with many tryouts for audience response, presentations for backers, a myriad of rewrites and adjustments applied to the score, dialog, and blocking over many months (and, not uncommonly, a number of years). I kept this in mind while viewing the premiere of the first act of Coffee, the Musical, an engaging and tuneful work-in-progress presented this past February at the NYC Coffee and Tea Festival. Read more »

Ghost: Comfort Food Musical

Lunt-Fontaine Theatre, NY

Avid fans of Broadway musicals love nothing more than a thrilling, exhilarating show, but we also realize that isn't going to be the case all that often. While we love it when a musical strives for and achieves brilliance, sometimes we know going in that a show is not going to redefine the genre. In those cases, we can often be content with an evening of good entertainment. We can still analyze what was good and what wasn't, but if the show ultimately works for you, it would have succeeded. It is the Broadway equivalent of a popular popcorn movie or a good summer beach read. That was the case when I saw Ghost, the new Broadway musical, adapted from the hugely successful 1990 movie that starred Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg. Read more »

Digging at the Roots

Clybourne Park
Walter Kerr Theatre, NY

Writing a prequel/sequel to Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun sounds like a chancy and potentially gimmicky proposition, bordering on infringing upon the merits of another author, but playwright Bruce Norris has cleared the inherent hurdles and written a masterpiece with Clybourne Park. Making its Broadway début at the Walter Kerr with a cast and production that do it every bit of justice, this is easily one of the greatest original plays to hit New York City in the last decade. Read more »

All Roar & No Bite

The Lyons
Cort Theatre, NY

Despite solid performances from Linda Lavin and Dick Latessa, The Lyons is a lost cause before the curtain closes on the first act, and there's no improvement thereafter. A fumbling and confused script by Nicky Silver is the production's greatest weakness, but some forced and postured performances don't help matters. Read more »

Engrossing Puppet Cinema

Planet Egg
Directed and Conceived by Zvi Sahar
Produced by Ali Sky Bennett
HERE Theaters
April 6 through 8, 2012 (Closed)

A new sub-genre of puppetry called Puppet Cinema by its creator, Zvi Sahar, took the stage, or rather the stage and screen, on Easter Weekend: a work entitled Planet Egg. This is puppetry in the mode of video-projected microsurgery. Its workings will take some explaining (so all those suffering from ADD please take an extra pill before reading further).  Read more »

Magic/Bird Is Missing its Balls

Once more into the nostalgic sports bio-play breach, dear friend, once more. Following up his portrayal of legendary coach Vincent Lombardi, playwright Eric Simonson digs back into the annals of epic NBA rivalries to lend his hand to the story of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in the bluntly titled Magic/Bird. This play offers about what you would expect of it, provided you're not looking for actual athletic action on the stage or any deep, meaningful insight about the two title figures.  Read more »

Flawed Mikado Better Than No Mikado

The Mikado
Collegiate Chorale
American Symphony Orchestra
Carnegie Hall, April 10, 2012

The roaring applause and cheers at the close of The Collegiate Chorale's concert presentation of The Mikado made it abundantly clear that the audience was utterly pleased. Gilbert and Sullivan's once most-frequently performed creation rarely gets an airing in New York, and to hear and see it in this concert version, with a full orchestra, a huge chorus, and guest principals, is certainly a welcome event. Read more »

Peter Pan Prequel: Peter and the Starcatcher

Peter and the Starcatcher 
Brooks Atkinson Theater, NYC

Just about everyone knows the Peter Pan story. But how did Peter, Tinkerbell, the Lost Boys, and Captain Hook happen to end up in Neverland? That story is told in Peter and the Starcatcher, a new play that gives us the Peter Pan back story and is opening on Broadway. The show, which is based on a 2004 best-selling children's novel, had a successful and highly praised two-month run off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop a year ago. I wish I could share the enthusiasm that was expressed about the off-Broadway run. While Peter has its assets, including an imaginative production and a good deal of theatricality, much of it, unfortunately, played out in a manner that seemed more tedious than enchanting.  Read more »

The Power of Myth

The Soap Myth
Written by Jeff Cohen

Directed by Arnold Mittelman
Produced by National Jewish Theater

Great theater is not always a comfortable experience -- indeed, a measure of unease might be a requirement for compelling drama. The Soap Myth, a superbly written, acted, and directed play, richly compensates the audience for whatever discomfort they might experience along the way to this play's conclusion. The action of this chamber drama is carried forward by a series of amazingly crisp, powerful, and natural conversations among the four-person cast. There are various pairings and groupings of the four, with two players portraying additional characters. The topic is one man’s passionate and relentless quest to conclusively answer what has become a lingering question: Did the Nazis actually manufacture soap from the body fat of their Jewish victims? Read more »

Extra, Extra, Read All About Hit

The Nederlander Theatre, NYC

The new Disney Broadway musical Newsies, adapted from the 1992 movie of the same name, tells a fictionalized story, but it is based on real events: the 1899 strike by New York newsboys against publishers including Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. The 1992 movie, which starred Christian Bale, was a flop, grossing less than $3 million, but it developed a cult following. The show arrived on Broadway after a successful Fall run, at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, that received rave reviews. Read more »

Falling Slowly Against the Grain

Bernard Jacobs Theatre, NYC

Adapting movies to stage musicals has become a staple on Broadway. The latest example is Once, based on the well-regarded 2006 low-budget film that had success both at the Sundance Film Festival and with art-house audiences. But Once is not your typical movie turned into a musical. It is an intimate, delicate piece, as opposed to flashy, big-budget musicals such as Sister Act or Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Once has a different feel than those, or almost any other Broadway musical. While I didn't totally respond to its story and its music, it is hard not to admire the musical's warmth, sweetness, and artistry. Read more »

A Slice of Life Worth Serving

Look for the Woman
Richmond Shepard Theatre, NY

I am leery about attending "slice-of-life" plays. The phrase is credited to French playwright Jean Jullien of the late 19th/early 20th Century, as a goal for those who wished to emphasize naturalism as an antidote to the stiff artificial theater of his era. For me, the phrase had come to mean gritty, often vulgar and clichéd dramas about colorless people "trying to be a somebody" against the odds of their circumstances, and on and on. Yet, how delightfully pleased I am to have attended Look for the Woman, a new play by Christie Perfetti. Look for the Woman, with fine direction by Matilda Szydagis, skillfully elevates and exalts the slice-of-life family drama and generously presents a thoughtful and moving evening of theater. Read more »

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