Theater Review

Flowers for the Dead

End of the Rainbow
Belasco Theatre, NY

Dedicated fans of the great, late Judy Garland are likely to a feel a thrill at seeing their ill-fated idol briefly brought back to life in End of the Rainbow. Tracie Bennett blossoms as the Judy who is unknowingly living the last months of her life while Michael Cumpsty makes for a sympathetic complement to her floating flourish, but they are the only two flowers to hold their color in this otherwise wilting arrangement.

Bennett enters the stage as the undisputed Judy Garland, unconcerned with hitting the marks of an impersonation but rather focused on evading the jaws of addiction and self-destruction that will eventually consume her. She moves naturally, breathing Judy's breath, moving Judy's body, bouncing with the compulsive energy of a performer that finds it near impossible to allow herself to be "off."

February House: Young Artists in Love

February House
Public Theater, NY

In a theater season dominated by musicals adapted from movies, it is nice to see an original new musical, but originality alone is no guarantee of a fully realized and satisfying entertainment. February House, the new musical opening at the Public Theater, is indeed original. It has its assets, including intelligence and an impressive score, but it is also uneven. While the musical has moments that are close to magical, it ultimately left me wishing it had delivered more than it did. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Ghost: Comfort Food Musical

Ghost
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.

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.

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.

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).