Theater Review

These Boots Are Made for Broadway!

Broadway has a new crowd- pleasing musical: Kinky Boots, a generously entertaining collaboration between Broadway veteran Harvey Fierstein, who wrote the book, and Cyndi Lauper -- yes, that Cyndi Lauper -- who wrote the score, her first for Broadway. The musical has a good, high energy first act, then gets even better in Act Two.

Kinky Boots is adapted from a 2005 British movie which itself is based on a true story of a young man, Charlie, who inherits his father's struggling English shoe factory. Charlie ultimately partners with Lola, a drag queen, to produce footwear for drag artists in the hopes of saving the factory and the jobs of all his workers.

Tiffany's of a Lesser Metal

Just in case you haven't seen the movie or read the book, there is now a stage adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany's. With all the cheer and excitement of a funeral procession, this pseudo-play unwilling drags itself through the motions, regretting its very existence, wailing the question Why? -- which would be difficult for any audience member to answer. There is a real cat in this production, one of its livelier points, and it even had the good sense to leap out of its leading lady's arms and make a premature dash for the wings. At least someone knows when to jump ship on this sinking excuse of a needless imitation.

Emilia Clarke is beautiful, energetic, eager, and way out of her league in the role of Holly Golightly.

Poking at Profundity: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

The emperor is wearing something at the Golden Theater, but to say it's more than a T-shirt and shorts would be generous. While the audience reacted eagerly on the night of this reviewer's attendance at Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, the surrounding enthusiasm was a sentiment that could not be fully shared here.

The promise of something profound is ultimately unfulfilled in this haphazardly heady play that feels more like a situation comedy made for cable than a comedy belonging on a stage. Characters are named after famous figures from Chekhov and Greek mythology, and similarities to their namesakes are explicitly presented, but behind the smoke screen of literary illusions there is little there.

A Delicate Balance

Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance, currently in revival through February 17th at the Berlind Theater at Princeton's McCarter Theater Center, is a beautifully mounted production: superb acting, marvelous direction, and the handsomest of set and costume designs. This is a "chamber drama" in that all the action takes place in one room -- the grand living room of a rich patrician Connecticut family. The cast consists of six players: an extended family of four and their very best friends, a couple who drop in unexpectedly, apparently intent on staying indefinitely.

One of Time’s Cruelties

The Other Place is a tight, witty, and powerful piece of theater. There has been an upwelling of solid straight plays on Broadway and Off-Broadway stages as of late, and The Other Place is only going to make it all the more difficult for Tony voters to pick their winners. However, Laurie Metcalf should make it considerably easier for those voters to select a winner for Leading Actress in a Play.

Metcalf [left] is stunning. Playing the role of Juliana, she commits wholeheartedly to a whirlwind of a transformation, falling from a collected, confident, and sexy career woman to a lost and weeping shadow of her former self. Bringing the audience with her on this journey of disintegration, Metcalf’s presence is commanding, breathing with a natural flow as she unravels before our eyes in a flurry of loss and regret. 

Opportunity for Some Serious Odets

The opportunity to see a full-scale production of an Odets play should be motivation enough for any theater aficionado; like the chance at a title match, it doesn't come along very often. It's not a knock-out, but Golden Boy lands some mean punches, winning by decision.

While notably winded and running out of room at the end of the third round, this production has some very powerful scenes, capturing a moment in American history when plays had large casts and socialism was popular enough in corners of the U.S. to make moneyed men truly uncomfortable. (Note: If you label President Obama as a Socialist, please read more on the subject.) Taking on the imperial juggernaut of capitalism in a boxing ring that works as a metaphor, it is the story of a battle for the soul of a country being fought over the future of one young man's life.

The Leviathan

The Whale

Leaving a play with the sense that you need a minute to walk off the weight of its strength is a rare and wonderful sensation. It means that the work has hit you, that its words have somehow found their way through the cracks of the protective exterior we all wear to get through the day and reached the vulnerable core where we are still capable of change. This is the place where good plays are meant to take hold, and The Whale, currently running at Playwrights Horizons, is one of these extraordinary plays. Plunging into a depth of unconventional characters adrift in a sea of uncovered territory, playwright Samuel D. Hunter has harpooned an unlikely hero and the swells of torment and love that surround him.

Porno for Playgoers

The Performers
Longacre Theatre, NY

Abandon all hope of stumbling on substance, ye who enter the Longacre Theatre to see its current showing centered on the world of porn. But if you're looking for some off-color, down-and-dirty humor, you could do a lot worse. The Performers is best summed up by one of its own flippant film titles, "I ate Chinese and now I'm hungry"; it's no main course of theater, but it might leave you wanting some more.

Scandalous: God's Tired Old Show

Neil Simon Theatre, NYC

Well, you can't blame the cast, and shaking one's fists at God seems pointless, but regardless of who's at fault, Scandalous, the new musical playing at the Neil Simon, is painful enough to make even the most fervent believers question their faith in musical theater. Armed with a heavily plotted story and the general mirth of a crucifixion, this musical is sadly beyond salvation.

It all begins with a poorly selected and misleading title that makes us feel we're about to see something tawdry, or at least mildly titillating; instead we are pushed through the life story of Aimee Semple McPherson, a woman we hardly care about and who would be much better served by a more objective Ken Burns documentary.

Chaplin Pleases Intermittently

Ethel Barrymore Theater, NYC

Putting together a new musical is no easy task, and every season we witness shows that demonstrate the difficulties involved. Yet, even when a musical is flawed, it still can have moments that make it worthwhile and leaves one wishing the entire show could have measured up to its best scenes. I was reminded of all this while watching Chaplin, the uneven new musical based on the life of film star Charlie Chaplin, and the first new musical to open this season.