Theater Review

A Normal Heart of Uncommon Strength

The Normal Heart

With Marriage Equality moving to the forefront of the political spectrum, the past two seasons of theater have responded with revivals of some of the strongest gay-themed plays and musicals in the American canon. Despite some very worthy competition, the current revival of The Normal Heart stands out as the strongest production.

After close to three decades from its Off-Broadway début, Larry Kramer's play about the initial silence and lack of government response to the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic still retains the power and emotional potency to render its audiences silent, with the exception of muted sobs of righteous outrage.

How Daniel Radcliffe Succeeds on Broadway

You have to give credit to Daniel Radcliffe.  With his Harry Potter success, the young star could have played it safe with movie and occasional stage roles.  Instead, he made a terrific stage debut a few years in the demanding play Equus.  Now he is back on Broadway, this time taking on the challenge of musical comedy in a revival of Frank Loesser's prize-winning 1961 musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.  Radcliffe makes a winning musical theater debut, and with able help from director/choreographer Rob Ashford, How to Succeed is a thoroughly enjoyable evening of musical comedy.

Spotty Sister Act Thrives During Musical Highlights

Sister Act
Broadway Theatre, NYC

Several trends were in evidence during the recently concluded 2010-2011 theater season. First, we continued to see new musicals based on hit motion pictures -- three among this season's newcomers. Musical comedy continues its comeback; at least three of the new musicals, along with both musical revivals, were shows that emphasized the laughs and spirit of old-fashioned musical comedy. Another trend, at least for me, was that the new musicals, while entertaining and often fun, did not rise to the level of greatness. 

South Park Creators' Broadway Debut

The Book of Mormon
Eugene O'Neill Theatre, NY

Clearly the hit musical of the season and a heavy favorite to win multiple Tony awards, including Best Musical, The Book of Mormon is the new musical by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with Robert Lopez, a Tony Award winner for the delightful Avenue Q. The three have collaborated on the book, music, and lyrics, while Parker co-directed the show with Casey Nicholaw, who also did the inventive choreography. But though it is irreverent, funny, slick, and tuneful, the show did not totally win me over.

Birbiglia Rides Again

Mike Birbiglia’s My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend
Barrow Street Theatre
Through Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mike Birbiglia has returned to the Off-Broadway stage, once again not only shedding the mantle of stand-up comedy in exchange for the theatrical, but accomplishing the rare feat of creating a one-man show truly worth seeing. Following the basic format he initiated with Sleepwalk with Me, Mike Birbiglia’s My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend is a different chapter from Birbiglia’s unlikely life told with the same distinctive voice that somehow makes awkward seem cool.

Anything Goes

Anything Goes
Stephen Sondheim Theatre, NYC

Early in Act One of the Roundabout Theatre Company's new revival of Cole Porter's classic 1934 musical, Anything Goes, Sutton Foster and Colin Donnell have the chance to sing one of Porter's great songs, "You’re the Top." It is quite sublime, and from that moment on, you know you're in good hands for the evening. This mostly smashing new production, staged by Kathleen Marshall, is, indeed, to quote another Porter lyric in the show, "delightful, delicious, and de-lovely."

Bringing in the Big Guns

La Cage aux Folles
Longacre Theatre, NYC

Despite what one may think of Harvey Fierstein's gravelly voice, he is an undeniably distinctive actor, and it is a true privilege to see him in the role he wrote for Broadway back in 1982. The current revival of La Cage aux Folles is coming up on its one-year anniversary, and with Christopher Sieber and Fierstein joining the cast, it exudes the freshness of a newly opened production.

Come Fly With Me

Catch Me If You Can
Neil Simon Theatre, NYC

In recent seasons, there have been numerous motion pictures adapted to Broadway musicals. Some have gone on to be big successes on Broadway -- Hairspray and The Producers are just two that come to mind. Others, like High Fidelity and Cry Baby, have been less successful, although I personally was quite fond of the latter show. This season, we have already had Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and Sister Act is currently in previews. The latest show to open is Catch Me If You Can, based on the Steven Spielberg hit movie that starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks. It has been adapted by many of the people who brought Hairspray to Broadway.